Under a seldom used provision of Kansas law, a local Democrat has successfully filed a petition with enough signatures to trigger a state grand jury investigation of Secretary of State Kris Kobach – though it’s not clear whether the grand jury probe will proceed and it’s universally agreed that there’s no evidence Kobach committed any crimes.
The strange turn in Kansas comes as Kobach is fighting legal battles on multiple fronts to enforce stricter voting laws for this year’s elections.
County officials in Kansas told the Associated Press Thursday that a petition to have Kobach investigated by a grand jury had attained enough signatures to allow a criminal investigation under Kansas law. The petition, filed by Democrat Steven X. Davis, who is a failed candidate for the state House, alleges that Kobach’s office committed election fraud and voter suppression, though, even the civil rights groups critical of the restrictive laws pushed by Kobach said they did not believe he committed any crimes, according to the AP.
With Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew confirming with the AP that Davis’ petition had received the number of required signatures, the matter will next be reviewed by the county’s top judge. Kansas is one of six states that allows citizens to petition for grand jury criminal investigation, but the process is rarely used, the AP said.
Davis alleges that people who seek to register to vote online are having their applications lost or not delivered to county officials. He said when he was running for the Kansas legislature, he was discouraged from using the online registration system for voter drives, a claim the Kansas Democratic Party backed up according to the AP.
However, Cheyenne Davis, the party’s field and political director, said that complaints that of lost applications were likely due to a faulty application system, rather than any sort of criminal intent, the AP reported.
Likewise, the League of Women Voters did not believe that Kobach was involved in any criminal conduct, even though the the proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement he has promoted is “bad law,” the group’s co-president Marge Ahrens told the AP.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it also did not see any evidence of criminal wrongdoing on Kobach’s part, according to the AP. Both groups are suing the state over its proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Kobach did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.