Kobach grand jury petitioner hopes panel will make ‘sincere effort’ to investigate

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence resident Steven Davis is pictured Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, at the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Davis circulated a petition to summon a citizen-initiated grand jury to investigate allegations of election-related crimes against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office.

Steven Davis won’t be dropping any major “bombshells” about former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office when he testifies before a Douglas County grand jury Tuesday.

Davis said he doesn’t have any, which is essentially why he pursued summoning a grand jury to investigate.

“That’s the value of the process, that the grand jurors can do more than I can as just a citizen,” Davis said.

“I hope that the grand jurors will make an effort — make a sincere effort — and, ultimately, it’s up to them.”

Davis is the Lawrence resident who circulated a petition for the citizen-initiated grand jury to investigate allegations of election-related crimes by Kobach’s office during the 2016 elections.

As the petitioner, Davis is also supposed to be the first person to testify before the jury, Kansas law says. All the grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff is scheduled to select the 15-member jury, plus six alternates, on Tuesday. Once the jury is chosen, she also plans to call in the first witness, Davis.

Then, jurors decide the course of the inquiry.

Davis said he understands they could do anything, from choosing to drop the matter right away to conducting a long investigation that could culminate in an indictment. They’ll also get to decide whether to ask the district attorney’s office or a special prosecutor to help.

In his calls for the grand jury, Davis has alleged that Kobach’s office failed to properly register a number of voters in 2016 who applied for registration while renewing their driver’s licenses or filling out an online form through the Kansas Department of Revenue’s website.

Next week, Davis doesn’t intend to put on an entire case himself.

Rather, he said, he’s preparing for the jury a “basic, introductory presentation.”

His plan is to explain the background of Kansas’ online voter registration process and some of the problems with it, particularly in October 2016.

From there, he said, he’ll encourage the jury to look at whether there were other issues and make suggestions about people and offices that may have answers. Davis said that includes the secretary of state’s office as well as Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, who he believes has records of people who registered under the new system yet had to vote provisionally because it didn’t work.

Davis noted that Kansas law also allows “any person” to request to testify before the grand jury. According to the statute, they’re supposed to file a request with the prosecuting attorney or grand jury foreman, including a written summary of their testimony.

After moving to Lawrence, Davis himself registered to vote online in September 2016 with no problems, he said. He said he did document that process and saved screenshots he intends to show the jurors so they can see how it works.

Davis, 29, is originally from Leavenworth and got his undergraduate degree at the University of St. Mary there. He works at Allen Press now and hopes to start law school in the fall, a goal he said was inspired largely by his experience over the past couple of years researching and filing to summon the grand jury.

Davis ran, unsuccessfully, as a Democrat for the Kansas House in both the 2016 and 2018 elections.

He initially started circulating a petition for a grand jury in 2016, which a local judge rejected because it failed to state specific allegations of illegal conduct.

Davis tried again, and while another local judge initially rejected his effort, the Kansas Court of Appeals ultimately ordered Douglas County to summon the grand jury in late November 2018.

Kobach’s office previously called Davis’ allegations “patently false” and accused him of using the petition process for political gain.

The office said the allegations concern a brief period in 2016 when online registration systems were malfunctioning and that election officials at both the state and county levels had worked quickly to make sure the affected voters were able to cast their ballots.

In the fall 2018 election, Republican Kobach lost his bid to become governor of Kansas to Democrat Laura Kelly.

Kansas is one of only a handful of states that allow citizen-initiated grand juries.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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