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'We don't have a democracy': Johnson County Sheriff Hayden doubles down on election conspiracies

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden.png
Posted at 5:44 PM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-29 11:41:25-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden doubled down on claims the 2020 election was rigged in a recent video while still refusing to address other outside inquiries about the investigation he launched and oversees.

During the summer, the KSHB 41 I-Team learned that Hayden is investigating possible election fraud in Johnson County, even though he has admitted that he's yet to uncover any probable cause.

RELATED | JoCo commissioner wants answers in sheriff's election investigation

Top-ranking election officials in Kansas, including Secretary of State Scott Schwab, have repeatedly said there's no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Hayden has drawn the ire of other county officials and refused to speak with news outlets, citing the investigation as ongoing, but he has discussed the investigation with select groups, including some Johnson County citizens in a video posted to Rumble.

"We interviewed the elections commissioner and, honest to goodness, two of the county's finest attorneys showed up there to represent him," Hayden said in the new video.

That video was recorded Sept. 14 at the sheriff's office, according to the Rumble post. Hayden met with several dozen people in a conversation he led that touched on numerous conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election.

Hayden offered specifics and answered questions about the details of his investigation. He has refused numerous requests from KSHB 41 for an interview about the topic.

Among the questions asked in the Rumble video: "When you have machines owned by Nancy Pelosi's company, how do you figure that’s going to be a high-level of integrity?" one person asked.

The reference to voting machines owned by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic U.S. representative from California, is one of many conservative conspiracies swirling around former President Trump's loss that has been debunked numerous times.

Hayden made reference on his own to another popular conspiracy unprompted.

"I'm so sick and tired of hearing, 'You’re hurting our democracy. You’re hurting our democracy,'" he said to the gathering. "We don’t have a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic."

That sentiment — "We're not a democracy; we're a republic" — is often invoked by conservative extremists.

Hayden has embraced such claims and assured the crowd he's close to breaking the case.

"I need probable cause to get a warrant and that's to lay out in front of them and definitively prove this is what it's doing and this is how it's doing it," Hayden said. "I'm getting close."

A woman in the audience asked Hayden to explain to her specifically how the fraud occurs.

Hayden said he thinks the major problem is with the voting machines, even though Schwab's office has found no issues with the state's systems — either in the 2020 election or in subsequent elections, including August's primary.

Hayden continued by saying "they're jimmying it" and called it "ballot box stuffing."

It's not clear what Hayden means, since he wouldn't grant an interview to clarify his assertion, but Dr. Greg Vonnahme, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said he's skeptical of the claims made in the video.

"The presentation is not a focused evaluation of any particular claim or subset of claims but rather sort of this scattershot discussion of vague allegations or misconduct or wrongdoing around the 2020 election," Vonnahme said.

Vonnahme, along with elections officials across the country, conceded that there are small disparities in every election and even some cases of isolated fraud — for instance, someone voting twice or someone voting for a dead relative.

"Outside of that, you get more ambitious claims that claim wide-scale or systematic fraud," Vonnahme said. "Those claims almost never stand up to scrutiny. They’re usually based on a misreading of data (or) poor analyses of what was going on."

While Hayden told the audience he has an open-door policy and invited them to come see him anytime, his spokesperson tells us that doesn't apply to the media.

As the 2022 midterm election approaches with Hayden admitting that he still has no probable cause two years after the 2020 election, it's not clear when he'll conclude the investigation.