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Johnson County, Kansas, sheriff testifies against election reform bill

JoCo Sheriff Calvin Hayden.png
Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-24 15:54:46-04

TOPEKA, Kan. — On Monday, Kansas senators in the Senate's Federal and State Affairs Committee took testimony on legislation that would change the state's election laws.

The bill is a priority for Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab. His office said the bill will strengthen the state's election laws.

“For 30 years, the state of Kansas has needed an election cleanup bill,” Clay Barker with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office told senators at Monday's hearing.

Another Republican, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, is against that bill.

In that same legislative committee on Monday, he accused the secretary of state's office of breaking the law.  

"I don't understand why the Secretary of State's office can get away with violating statutes and nobody holds them accountable,” Hayden said in addressing senators.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office responded with a statement.  

“Sheriff Hayden’s statements consistently lack merit. This multi-year investigation-- at taxpayer expense-- has produced no evidence of foul play in Kansas’ elections.  

If the Sheriff was really interested in strengthening Kansas’ election laws, he would have been a proponent for HB2086, rather than opposing this bill which increases transparency, improves election processes, and makes it a crime to tamper with election equipment.”  

On Friday, Sheriff Hayden's office sent the following statement.

"It should be a felony to tamper with any aspect of the election process. If the Secretary of State would adhere to state statute, the sheriff wouldn’t have a problem."
The KSHB 41 I-Team has been looking into a Sheriff Hayden investigation since last summer. It centers around alleged fraud in the 2020 election.  

On Thursday, the secretary of state’s office reiterated there’s no evidence to support that claim.  

Schwab's office said the bill would increase transparency, improve election processes, and make it a crime to tamper with election equipment.  

“I took an oath to uphold the laws and the constitution of the state of Kansas and when people feel that the law is being violated, we’re going to investigate it and we’re still investigating it,” Hayden said.  

Hayden was referring to his investigation looking into alleged fraud in the 2020 election. It's something the secretary of state's office said has no merit.  

Since the fall of 2021, the sheriff's office said it received more than 200 claims of fraud. The KSHB 41 I-team has yet to see any of the claims because the sheriff's office said it would compromise the investigation.  

Hayden told state lawmakers during Monday's testimony more than 15 different statutory violations have been identified, but would not specify which ones. On Friday, a spokeswoman with the sheriff's office said they could not give specifics since it's an active investigation.

When asked what the sheriff would like to see in the bill, the spokeswoman said the sheriff wants accountability and for there to be a "penalty if a state statute is violated."

The I-Team also asked when the sheriff's investigation might wrap up. A spokeswoman said the sheriff's office is still waiting on data they've requested from "public and private entities."

The I-Team requested an interview with the sheriff and was told he was not available.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office has not charged anyone connected to the investigation.