Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kansas) was charged Tuesday with three felony counts of vote fraud and one misdemeanor charge for allegedly voting illegally in a 2019 municipal election and failing to inform the DMV of a change of address. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay (R) announced the charges shortly before Watkins participated in a debate for his competitive Aug. 4 GOP primary election. Watkins, 43, claimed Kagay was trying to help his main primary rival, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.
Watkins' campaign has acknowledged that he signed voter registration forms that listed his address as a Topeka UPS Store in a different municipal district than his residence, calling it a mistake Watkins has tried to rectify. The three felonies Kagay charged him with are voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and interference with law enforcement.
In Tuesday's debate, Watkins denied any wrongdoing and called the charges "very suspicious" and "hyper-political." LaTurner called them "a key issue in this campaign," adding: "We need to put our best foot forward. Clearly, our current congressman — with three felony charges and a misdemeanor charge — is not the person to do that." The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla (D).
Watkins won his seat in 2018 by eking out a 26 percent plurality in a seven-way primary then beating Democrat Paul Davis by fewer than 3,000 votes, "thanks to outside spending from a group largely run and funded by his father," Politico reports. President Trump won the district by 9 percentage points two years earlier.
Before the 2018 election, The Associated Press found that Watkins had falsely claimed he led and grew a small business and exaggerated a heroic story about climbing Mt. Everest. A local Republican county chairman had said at the time that "if we come to find out that stuff's true and he's really not what he says he is, we'll replace him in two years, I guess." Peter Weber
Only one case of voter fraud was recorded and prosecuted in Colorado after the 2016 election, and the perpetrator, former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve Curtis, was just sentenced to four years of probation and 300 hours of community service. Curtis said at his hearing on Friday that "it was a normal and customary thing in my house" for him to fill out the ballots of his two ex-wives. "I didn't know that was illegal," he added. "But at no time did I plan this, and I still don't remember doing it." He said he had filled in the mail-in ballot of his estranged wife at the time, Kelly Curtis, and forged her signature during a diabetic blackout.
District Judge Julie Hoskins said she "didn't believe for a second" that he filled out the ballot, signed it with the correct ink and his wife's signature, and mailed it in during a blackout, and she almost upped his sentence to jail time, as prosecutors had requested, when he interrupted her, The Greeley Tribune reports. Curtis was caught when Kelly Curtis called the Weld County Clerk to obtain her mail-in ballot, only to be told she had already voted; DNA evidence and handwriting analysis led the district attorney's office to Steve Curtis. A jury convicted him of voter fraud and forgery, a felony and a misdimeanor, in December. Curtis, 57, was chairman of the state GOP from 1997 to 1999 and worked as a talk show host at KLZ-AM in Denver until as recently as last August. Peter Weber