Criminal charges were filed against Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) by Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay on Tuesday after an investigation into alleged voter fraud.
According to Kansas’s KSNT, Watkins is charged with “three felonies and a misdemeanor that relate to the 2019 local election,” which include interference with law enforcement and providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and failing to notify the DMV of change of address.
The charges from Kagay were announced shortly before Watkins was set to take the stage to debate his primary challengers Jake LaTurner and Dennis Taylor on KSNT. After the charges were announced, Watkins claimed they were “hyper-political” and “very suspicious,” noting the timing of the announcement.
“We’ve cooperated with the district attorney completely,” Watkins said in regard to the charges. “I look forward to clearing my name.”
The investigation, which was originally conducted by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, was taken up by Kagay in April. The original investigation was opened after Watkins listed a UPS store in Topeka as his address when he voted in the 2019 general election.
Kansas Republican chair Mike Kuckelman also weighed in on the matter, saying, “the timing of it is difficult for Congressman Watkins.”
“It’s disappointing, the timing of it is difficult for Congressman Watkins,” Kuckelman said. “Everyone who is charged is innocent until proven guilty and we have to wait for the trial. He should have a trial and see what the jury decides.”
According to Kagay, the investigation was significantly delayed due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, however, documents and paperwork were still collected for the investigation throughout the shutdown.
In 2017, Watkins gave a West Topeka address on a voter form, and in 2018, he listed an address in Southeast Topeka.
KSNT also noted, “Under state law election perjury is a felony where the criminal could be sentenced to 5-7 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.”