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Kansas election security forum blends campaign appeals, concerns about voting misconduct

OLATHE — Republican secretary of state candidate Mike Brown joined an election integrity discussion Monday focused on conspiracy theories of voting misconduct in Kansas and other states that potentially deprived President Donald Trump of a second term and threatened the nation’s future.

“This room is filled with people because there is doubt about our elections. When there are doubts about elections it is corrosive to our democracy, to our republic, to our way of life,” Brown said during the event coordinated by the Conservatives for Election Integrity political action committee.

Brown pledged to ban ballot drop boxes used to make it more convenient for Kansans to vote. He challenged the decision by Secretary of State Scott Schwab, the state’s top election official since 2019, to defer prosecution of alleged election fraud to the office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

“We are going to investigate and prosecute election crimes in our state. I promise you we will not back down,” he said.

Brown’s campaign came under scrutiny for voting as a member of the Johnson County Commission to accept an $850,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help finance the county’s 2020 election operations. At that time, Brown called the cash a “nice surprise.”

However, as the GOP candidate for secretary of state, Brown has denounced Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of $350 million for election grants to local government across the nation, including Johnson County, during the election cycle dominated by COVID-19. Brown didn’t mention the policy conflict during his pitch to hundreds of people assembled at an Olathe hotel ballroom to gain insight into conspiracy claims that failed to gain traction in the nation’s courts but remained the focus of people frustrated by Trump’s loss in 2020.

The event was moderated by Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS News from 2002 to 2018. She was hired by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2019 before joining Fox News’ streaming service in 2020. She created controversy on social media for embracing Trump’s voter fraud claims and drew attention by comparing presidential medical adviser Anthony Fauci to Nazi physician Josef Mengele.

At various times during the panel discussion, participants lurched away from election issues. Brown, for example, shifted from a description of election system contracts to a point about why the Kansas GOP had no room for “milquetoast, Republican-in-name-only, lousy Republicans.”

Joining Brown for the panel discussion were Kansas state Sens. Mike Thompson and Mark Steffen, Republicans who have raised alarms about voter fraud in Kansas.

Logan asked the panelists whether Republicans also cheated when it came to thwarting the will of voters. Members of the crowd shouted “yes,” but only Thompson responded to her question. He said he didn’t care who was breaking the law, because it all had to be stopped.

An election integrity forum hosted by conservative political organizations in Olathe featured Johnson County voting conspiracy theorist Thad Snider, Kansas secretary of state candidate Mike Brown, Sen. Mike Thompson and Sen. Mark Steffen. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
An election integrity forum hosted by conservative political organizations in Olathe featured Johnson County election conspiracy theorist Thad Snider, Kansas secretary of state candidate Mike Brown, Republican Sen. Mike Thompson and GOP Sen. Mark Steffen. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Thompson, a retired television weather forecaster, said adoption of sufficient election law was difficult in the Legislature despite two-third GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

“There’s a lot of people who are timid,” Thompson said.

Steffen, who repeatedly endorsed Brown’s candidacy for secretary of state, said Kansas’ voting process had been overwhelmed by computer technology to an extent it was impossible to know whether corrupt individuals, companies or countries were altering votes or outcomes.

“Who knows what’s going on?” he said. “This is a classic situation where simplicity wins. The thing that appalls me in our Kansas state government, and the federal government and every state, is the money we blow on technology, on computers. We need to invest in the people. I’d much rather pay somebody $50,000 a year to have a pencil and a Big Chief notebook and tally votes.”

Steffen also said the U.S. Supreme Court failed Americans in delivery of basic constitutional questions on elections — as well as abortion — in a way some parents failed their children.

“They’re a bunch of egg heads who get picked to be U.S. Supreme Court justices who aren’t real-world smart,” the senator said. “They didn’t have the cojones to take a (Trump election) case that changes the course of our country.”

Thad Snider, a Johnson County resident who has claimed election fraud in Johnson County, said lazy news reporters refused to write about the truth of election misconduct. He suggested these flawed reporters might as well work for Pravda, the Russian news operation. He said Johnson County’s acceptance of Zuckerberg grants was a grave mistake.

He said 10% of ballots cast should be audited to get a better sense of the system’s overall accuracy. In addition, perhaps 7,000 votes were improperly counted in a recent Johnson County election because the chain of custody of ballots wasn’t documented. He alleged there was trafficking in ballots and video monitoring of ballot drop boxes was a joke.

Snider also declared support for state Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha resident who renounced the GOP to run for governor as an independent. Pyle was in the audience. His idea is to shake up the November race between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Schmidt, the Republican attorney general.

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said the department's investigators continued to examine potential of election fraud in the county. He promised deputies would "tighten" oversight and security of future Johnson County elections because things were "just not smelling right." (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said the agency’s investigators continue to examine potential election fraud. He vowed deputies would “tighten” oversight and security of future Johnson County elections because things were “just not smelling right.” (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who launched an investigation of potential election crimes in Johnson County, said he became suspicious when registration of Democrats surged between 2016 and 2020 in Johnson County. He also accused Kelly of making a “terrible” deal with the ACLU to funnel information about opportunities to vote through state agencies to individuals.

“That tells me corruption runs to the top,” Hayden said. “Everything I’m looking at is just not smelling right. We’re going to continue to look at this. I want nothing more than to put handcuffs on people who did this.”

He said deputies in Johnson County would be assigned election duties to “tighten” oversight and security of the vote. He added: “We will fix this.”

In separate video appearances at the event, Republican candidates for secretary of state in Colorado and Arizona spoke about election challenges.

Mark Finchem, an Arizona House member endorsed in the secretary of state’s contest by Trump, said there was sufficient evidence of election misconduct in Arizona for the state Senate to issue subpoenas. He has been aligned with the militia group Oath Keepers.

He’s part of a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against use of machines to tabulate votes in Arizona in the upcoming election due to the potential of hacking.

“That means we would go to paper ballots and hand counting,” Finchem said.

Mesa County Court Clerk Tina Peters, who faces a 13-count indictment in Colorado related to alleged tampering with election equipment and official misconduct, said Americans willing to fight for election integrity had to stand up to powerful government forces. She is a Republican candidate for Colorado secretary of state.

Peters, who compared Secretary of State Jena Griswold to a Nazi secret police operative, said the legal effort that ensnared her was driven by the type of people who wanted the United States “to fail.”

“We’re up against a big machine,” Peters said. “This is about globalist takeover.”


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