U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins, who represents Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, has been charged with several counts relating to voter fraud and interfering with a police investigation, according to a news release from the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Mike Kagay announced the charges Tuesday evening, shortly before Watkins and his two opponents in the Aug. 4 Republican primary had their first and only televised debate. Watkins called the charges “hyper-partisan” because of the timing and said he's done nothing wrong.
Watkins is being charged with four counts:
-Interfering with law enforcement by providing false information (felony)
-Voting without being qualified (felony)
-Unlawful advance voting (felony)
-Failing to notify DMV of address change (misdemeanor)
The results of an investigation conducted by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office that began in December 2019, which were "significantly delayed" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is what led to the charges, according to the news release.
The allegations stem from the November 2019 election, according to the news release.
Watkins filed a voter registration form in late August 2019 on which he listed a postal box at a UPS store in southwest Topeka. That UPS box was listed as his residential address when he cast a ballot that included a Topeka City Council race in November.
Watkins later listed the address for an apartment complex about 2 miles north of the UPS store as his residence, then corrected his voter registration form in mid-January to list an apartment number.
However, using the UPS address as his home address raised concerns as to whether or not he improperly cast a vote in a local city council race, according to local media reports.
Watkins is running for re-election this year against Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner and former department of administration secretary Dennis Taylor in the Republican primary in August, according to local news media.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.