Kansans point to IT flaws, statistical oddities to justify demands for better election security

Kansas secretary of state says 2020 elections fair, but presses for voting changes

By: - February 2, 2022 3:53 pm
Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, said he was convinced flaws in the state's election laws led to fraud in 2020 because there was no reason to anticipate President Joe Biden would have defeated former President Donald Trump in GOP-saturated Johnson County (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, said he was convinced flaws in the state’s election laws led to fraud in 2020 because there was no reason to anticipate President Joe Biden would have defeated former President Donald Trump in GOP-saturated Johnson County (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Thad Snider and Robert Strathman are working to amplify frustration they share with Kansans convinced outcome of the 2020 election necessitates an upgrade in election security.

Neither presented direct proof of scoundrels cheating at the ballot box in Kansas. They did urge members of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee to consider that technological vulnerabilities, suspicious statistics or the indifference of state and county election officials provided opportunities to hack computer systems, stuff ballot boxes and distort election outcomes.

“Susceptible, uncontrolled and unequal are the three words that I think describe that election,” said Strathman, who runs a business in Overland Park and advocates for a return to paper ballots. “I think we’ve seen a lot of smoke today, and where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

Snider resides in Johnson County and has engaged in a private war with election officials with the county and the Kansas secretary of state’s office. He said he was unjustly denied access to security camera footage of ballot drop boxes and thwarted in a request to review election documents related to movement of those ballots.

“Everybody in this room has doubts about what happened in 2020 to some degree,” he said. “Every part of the voting process should be public. It should be inspectable and auditable by the public. That’s not the case.”

He urged the Legislature to pass a bill requiring appointment of a special counsel with subpoena power to investigate alleged voting irregularities during Kansas elections of 2020 and 2021.

 

Schwab: Election free and fair

None of the handful of people testifying Tuesday before the Senate committee represented the position that Kansas elections had been safe and secure. More than one year after voting concluded in 2020, no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged in Kansas to support theories of misconduct.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who supervises elections in the state, has defended integrity of voting in 2020. Schwab said Kansas ranked among the most secure states in terms of election fraud. His office didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment about the Senate testimony.

In January, Schwab urged the Legislature to improve auditing of presidential, federal, statewide and local elections. He recommended the state make it easier for election officials to remove inactive voters from registration rolls. He wants a law affirming the practice since 2006 of not connecting voting machines to the internet.

Schwab said he would introduce legislation to require all electronic pollbooks to be certified with the secretary of state’s office and meet security protocol to shield voter data.

Sen. Rob Olson, the Olathe Republican who chairs the committee, said as many as a dozen election reform bills would be considered during the next few weeks in the Senate.

“We need to hear from the public,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of election bills that are going to be teed up.”

 

Biden’s ‘excess votes’

Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, kicked off the day’s hearing by vouching for claims of election fraud in 2020 leveled by former U.S. Army Capt. Seth Keshel, who issued a report alleging there were “excess votes” for Biden. Keshel’s work focuses on use of registration records, population data and voting trend information to produce estimates of election outcomes. Garber said Keshel concluded there was “rampant” fraud in several states, but didn’t offer actual examples.

Garber said he believed there were “some irregularities in Kansas,” but the state representative acknowledged “we haven’t proven fraud at this point.”

Garber said the GOP voter registration advantage made it implausible incumbent Republican Donald Trump would have been beaten in Johnson County by Democrat Joe Biden. He proposed the Legislature order a forensic audit of voting in Johnson and Sedgwick counties.

“Keep in mind,” Garber said, “Johnson County had not elected a Democratic candidate for the presidency since 1916. So, Democrats win Johnson County for the first time in 100 years. My question is: Does that make sense?”

In 2021, the Associated Press reported that an evaluation of Keshel’s assertions “showed no evidence of fraud and ignored the reality that voters act in ways that don’t match up with predictive modeling.” Trump and other supporters of the former president continue to claim he was cheated by conspirators in key states that swung the outcome to Biden.

Doug Frank, an Ohio math teacher who claims to be working in 40 states to disclose election fraud, said evidence of misconduct was mounting and would become evident quickly in Kansas and other states. He didn’t address published reports raising questions about quality of his data analysis.

“The way the temperature is going, things are going to heat up in your state pretty good, pretty fast,” he said.

He said it was odd voter registration in Kansas was on the rise at the same time population growth was flat. He asserted hackers could have wormed their way into the state’s voter registration system to enable fraudulent votes to be cast by people abusing mail-in ballots.

“These are danger signs,” he said. “It doesn’t prove fraud, but statistically — ding, ding ding, warning Will Robinson. You got more people registering than you should have registered and more of them are voting. Mail-in ballots are a huge vulnerability.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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