Wichita — A county official said Thursday that enough signatures were gathered to allow a grand jury to criminally investigate Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s handling of Kansas’ online voter registration system. But even Kobach’s harshest critics say they have seen no evidence he committed a crime.
The petition seeks a grand jury investigation into whether the Republican’s office committed election fraud and voter registration suppression by deleting registration data or obstructing delivery of voter applications to county election officials. The petition was filed last month by Steven X. Davis, a Democrat who believes a grand jury is the only way to get credible evidence.
Kobach didn’t immediately return messages for comment.
Kansas is among six states that allow grand juries by citizen petition. Kansas’ law has been rarely used in the last decade, and when it has, petition backers have targeted abortion clinics or sellers of alleged pornography.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said Davis’ petition had the required number of verified signatures. The next step is to send it to the county’s top judge for a standard review.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters — both suing Kobach over voting rights issues — said they haven’t seen evidence of criminal conduct at his office. The league contends that Kansas’ proof of citizenship requirement is “bad law,” but co-president Marge Ahrens said the group hasn’t alleged that Kobach’s conduct is criminal.
Davis said he also hasn’t seen evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but was advised when he recently ran for the Kansas Legislature not to use the state’s online system for voter registration drives because submitted applications are often lost. The Kansas Democratic Party acknowledged that it discourages the use of the online form for registration drives.
Cheyenne Davis, the party’s field and political director, said the party has had “dozens” of complaints from people who used the online system and later discovered their names weren’t added to voter rolls or to a list of incomplete applications. She said the online system may be faulty, but she doesn’t believe there was criminal intent.
The petition’s validation marks another headache for Kobach, whose office is already embroiled in at least four lawsuits over Kansas’ voter registration laws, including two challenging the requirement that residents prove their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote at motor vehicle offices.
In Kansas, citizens can call a grand jury after collecting signatures equivalent to 2 percent of votes cast in a county in the last gubernatorial election, plus 100. The petition had 925 valid signatures, more than the 860 required.