Kansas GOP Congressman Steve Watkins faces probe of voter registration

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Steve Watkins

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Authorities plan to investigate whether a freshman Kansas congressman broke state laws by listing a UPS Inc. store as his address on a voter registration form and for obtaining a mail-in ballot in a November election.

Rep. Steve Watkins’ spokesman said Wednesday that the Republican’s use of the UPS store’s address in southwest Topeka was an inadvertent mistake that will be corrected. But Watkins’ use of the address raised a question of whether he improperly cast a vote in a local City Council race on Nov. 5.

The local prosecutor, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, said Wednesday that he had asked the county sheriff’s department to investigate the matter and report back to him. Both Kagay and Sheriff Brian Hill are Republicans.

The questions about Watkins’ actions come as some Republicans hope to oust him from office during the August 2020 primary. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging him for the GOP nomination, having jumped into the race at the urging of former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Voter registration records show that Watkins has listed three addresses as his residence since September 2017, including the one for the UPS store. From September 2017 until August 2018, he listed a central Topeka address as his residence and the UPS store as his mailing address, before changing his residence to a rental home in south Topeka, with no separate mailing address.

Watkins spokesman Dylan Jones said in an email that the congressman now lives in an apartment in west Topeka. He submitted a new voter registration form in late August, listing the UPS store address as his only address.

“Steve listed his mailing address instead of his physical address,” Jones said. “This was inadvertent and both addresses are in the same county and same congressional district, so there was no improper purpose. The paperwork is being corrected. ”

But the apartment complex and the UPS store are in different City Council districts, and only the district for the UPS store was on the ballot in November. Jones did not immediately respond to an email asking whether Watkins cast a ballot in that local race.

The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported Watkins’ use of the UPS store address on his voter registration and ballot request forms.

Records show that Watkins requested a mail-in ballot on Oct. 28, also listing the UPS store address on the “Residential Address” line. He asked that the ballot be mailed to an apartment in Washington.

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