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GOP congressman charged with multiple counts of voter fraud in Kansas

Prosecutors hit Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) with three felonies for using a UPS store as his voter registration address.

By Emily Singer - July 15, 2020
Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS)

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) was charged with three felony counts of voter fraud on Tuesday, after prosecutors alleged that he used an address of a UPS storefront and not his home address to register to vote — a violation of the law.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay charged Watkins with voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, interference with law enforcement, and providing false information

Watkins called the use of a UPS store address to register to vote an accident, saying the UPS store is his campaign’s mailing address, NPR reported. Watkins later changed his voter registration address to an apartment in Topeka, according to NPR.

The charges against Watkins were filed minutes before he was slated to take to a debate stage for a GOP primary to win renomination to his Topeka-based House seat.

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Watkins said at the debate, according to local reporter Kris Ketz. “As soon as I realized that I had put our mailing address instead of my physical address, we fixed it.”

NPR reported that Watkins went on to call the timing of the charges “very suspicious,” suggesting that they seemed “highly political,” as the district attorney who charged Watkins with the crimes has the same political consultant as one of his primary opponents, Dennis Taylor.

Taylor is one of two Republicans challenging Watkins in the GOP primary. Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner is also running.

LaTurner said the charges against Watkins are disqualifying.

“We need to put our best foot forward,” LaTurner said at the debate, according to Politico. “Clearly our current congressman, with three felony charges and a misdemeanor charge, is not the person to do that.”

Kansas’ 2nd District, which Watkins represents, backed Trump by an 18-point margin in 2016.

However, Watkins barely defeated Democrat Paul Davis in the 2018 midterm elections, winning by less than 1%.

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