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Johnson County official expresses concern over sheriff's review of election security

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Posted at 12:12 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 18:13:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Recent revelations regarding the review of Johnson County, Kansas, elections by the county's sheriff have raised the concerns of county administrators.

In a July 7 memo to Sheriff Calvin Hayden, Johnson County’s Chief Counsel Peg Trent expressed concerns about the sheriff's requests related to election security in the county.

READ: July 7 memo | Page 1 | Page 2

In the memo, Trent wrote “the Sheriff’s office role in providing oversight of security for county buildings, including the election building, is different than oversight of election operational procedures.”

Trent wrote that a meeting on July 5 was set up to discuss security cameras on election ballot boxes. During the meeting, the memo said the sheriff asked about “prior election processes, challenged the integrity of elections in Johnson County, and requested that local law enforcement participate in the current election procedures.”

Specific examples from the memo included the following:

  • Questioned why ballot drop boxes were located at public libraries in 2020 contrary to the Sheriff’s staff recommendation and whether the Election Commissioner would eliminate ballot drop boxes
  • Limiting the hours that ballot drop boxes are available
  • A statement that all ballots must be printed in the State of Kansas, which you asserted was a law
  • A concern that the Election Office would not investigate, or police, the 10-ballot delivery limit
  • An offer to involve your staff with the collection of ballots at ballot drop boxes
  • A suggestion that ballots must be counted at the drop box site
  • An offer to have your staff drive unmarked vehicles to pick up ballots from ballot drop boxes
  • A request by one of your staff that Sheriff’s deputies be permitted in the “E Room” to observe the official election board as it counts ballots at the election office
  • A suggestion that the signature verification process is not done in compliance with how the Sheriff’s Office conducts investigations for criminal matters

Trent wrote her concern was that “these requests give the appearance that the Sheriff’s Office is attempting to interfere with an election and to direct a duly authorized election official as to how an election will be conducted.”

Trent reminded the sheriff the Kansas Secretary of State is the chief election officer for the state and the Johnson County Election Commissioner is the county’s election officer.

“The procedures and duties are set out and we cannot, and will not, permit a violation of duty or statute,” Trent wrote in the memo.

The Johnson County sheriff issued a statement on Monday afternoon to the KSHB 41 I-Team in response to the memo:

“We have no intention of asserting ourselves into any election. That is illegal. We have been requested by the Board of County Commissioners to provide security. We made suggestions to help with security. That’s as far as that has gone," the statement read.