Government & Politics

Kris Kobach files voter fraud cases in Johnson County

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach The Associated Press

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has filed his first three voter fraud cases, and two are in Johnson County District Court. The voters allegedly voted in two states in the same election.

The secretary of state’s office accused Betty M. Gaedtke, 61, and Steven K. Gaedtke, 60, of “voting without being qualified,” a misdemeanor. The alleged voter fraud took place during the 2010 general election, according to the complaint.

A case also was filed against Lincoln L. Wilson, 64, in Sherman County, which borders Colorado in northwest Kansas. The counts against Wilson include “voting without being qualified” in the 2010 general election, the 2012 primary and the 2014 general election and “election perjury,” a felony.

The Gaedtkes allegedly voted in both Kansas and Arkansas, and Wilson in both Kansas and Colorado. They were registered in Kansas as Republicans, according to records.

“The evidence in both cases is very strong that the individuals in question intentionally voted multiple times in the same election,” Kobach said Tuesday.

A court date for the Gaedtkes’ cases was set for Dec. 3. The cases were filed Friday.

The Gaedtkes no longer live at the Olathe address listed in the complaint. They did not return telephone messages Tuesday.

A conservative Republican, Kobach has made voter fraud his top priority, pledging to combat it with tougher registration laws and prosecutions. The Kansas Legislature in the last session granted Kobach the power to prosecute voter fraud, the only secretary of state in the nation with such prosecutorial authority.

Kobach said he needed that authority because county prosecutors are busy with criminal cases and often don’t have time to devote to voter fraud allegations.

Critics such as Sen. Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, say Kobach’s concern about voter fraud is overblown. Hensley said Tuesday the filing of these cases didn’t change his mind.

“I always thought it was an issue that Kris Kobach trumped up,” Hensley said. “I’ve always believed there wasn’t any widespread voter fraud in Kansas. I think it’s very isolated.”

During the initial push for the legislation to give him prosecutorial authority, Kobach presented to the Legislature 18 alleged cases of double voting — in which a person votes in more than one jurisdiction — that he said occurred during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

The two 2010 cases from Johnson County listed in the documents Kobach presented involved allegations of double voting in Kansas and Arkansas that the county declined to prosecute.

The Gaedtkes apparently now live in Arkansas.

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin said Tuesday that he respects Kobach’s efforts to combat voter fraud. Although his office doesn’t have the power to prosecute, he said, “we oppose any attempts at voter fraud or other actions that might compromise the integrity of the electoral system as well as voters’ confidence in that system.”

The case from Sherman County was referred to the FBI, but no action was taken, according to Kobach's March testimony.

Wilson, reached by phone Tuesday, said he lives part time in Sherman County and part time in Yuma County, Colo. He said that he did vote in both states.

“But I know for a fact that I only voted for one president,” Wilson said. “The issues in Kansas that I vote for would have been for that general election, such as property tax … and if I voted for a senator or a representative in the state of Kansas, that would have nothing to do with a senator or a representative in the state of Colorado.”

Wilson has several real estate properties in each state. He said he believed he was restricted to voting in only one county in each of those states.

“These were the first out the door,” Kobach said about the three cases. “We expect to file more cases in the next few months.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld