Schwab’s campaign rebuffs election-integrity criticism from Kansas GOP rival Brown

Questions of security of voting process permeate race for secretary of state

By: - July 26, 2022 2:07 pm
Former Johnson County Commission member Mike Brown, an advocate of baseless election fraud conspiracies, takes to social media to criticize incumbent Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who pushed back against the attacks. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Former Johnson County Commission member Mike Brown, an advocate of baseless election fraud conspiracies, takes to social media to criticize incumbent Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who pushed back against the attacks. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The campaign of Secretary of State Scott Schwab pushed back Tuesday against Republican primary challenger Mike Brown’s attempt to blame the GOP incumbent for election administration mistakes in Rice and Douglas counties.

“Once again,” said Lydia Meiss, of the Schwab campaign, “Mike Brown is misrepresenting the facts for political gain, and fails to understand the role of the secretary of state’s office in election administration.”

Brown, a former Johnson County Commission member, has waged a campaign for secretary of state anchored to President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of 2020 election fraud and to allegations Schwab fell short in his role as the state’s top elections officer.

In texts to supporters, Brown touted a news story of the recent Kansas Court of Appeals decision declaring Schwab violated the Kansas Open Records Act. The appellate court said Schwab shouldn’t have instructed a company to switch off a computer software feature that made it easier for the public to access provisional ballot data.

Brown, of Overland Park, tried to link Schwab to mistakes by the Rice County clerk regarding inaccurate instructions to voters in a city council election and failure to forward two-dozen ballots to voters in a school ballot initiative. He suggested Schwab was responsible for a problem in Douglas County in which a printing company created duplicate ballots. Cards were sent to about 1,000 voters and local officials said procedures were in place to block double-voting.

Meiss, deputy campaign manager for Schwab, said Brown should be aware administrative mistakes would occur in the election process and often those situations were beyond jurisdiction of a secretary of state in Kansas. That was the case in Douglas and Rice counties, she said.

“The election administrative errors occurred at the local level, for a local election, where the secretary of state has no statutory authority to intervene,” she said. “Secretary Schwab has made it a priority to provide additional and enhanced training, resources and a training certification program to county election officials, beyond what is already required in state law. He will continue to do so in his second term.”

Schwab, who served Olathe in the Kansas House from 2009 to 2019, was elected secretary of state in 2018. He is seeking reelection to a second term and has repeatedly declared Kansas elections safe and secure.

Secretary of State Scott Schwab's reelection campaign threw water on complaints leveled by Republican primary opponent Mike Brown, a former Johnson County Commission member (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s reelection campaign threw water on complaints leveled by Republican primary opponent Mike Brown, a former Johnson County Commission member fond of President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud in 2020. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Schwab was endorsed for reelection by former Gov. Sam Brownback and former U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who praised Schwab for increasing post-election audits, improving security of election equipment and opposing attempts by the federal government to take greater control of Kansas elections.

Brown, who lost a 2020 reelection campaign for Johnson County Commission, has faced criticism for praising an $856,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to support Johnson County’s election operation in 2020. The money was part of Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative to offer grants to local governments struggling with challenges of COVID-19, and some conservatives have objected to infusion of that outside cash.

Schwab’s campaign issued a statement that said the secretary of state didn’t accept Zuckerberg funding, but questioned Brown’s decision to support the county’s use of that grant money.

Schwab’s campaign also accused Brown of accepting thousands of dollars in anonymous online donations in excess of amounts allowed by state law.

“Mike talks a lot about integrity. It’s just that — all talk,” the Schwab campaign said. “Time and time again, Mike failed to act with integrity. He didn’t act with integrity when he was county commissioner and he’s already proven that he won’t as secretary of state.”

On Tuesday, Brown turned to Facebook to question Schwab’s skills because the word “integrity” was misspelled on a state website listing of political organizations. The campaign-finance reporting site operated by the secretary of state’s office and the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission listed the Election Integrity organization as “Election Integrety.”

“Our failed Kansas secretary of state, ‘Skippy’ Schwab, knows so little about election integrity he can’t even spell it,” Brown said. “It would be funny if it weren’t so shameful.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.

MORE FROM AUTHOR