Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden using county resources to investigate 2020 and 2021 elections

Johnson County Sheriff COVID-19

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden spoke at a local Republican Party gathering Monday night and confirmed an employee in his office has been working on county time for the past six months looking into complaints about the county's election process. Hayden says no subpoenas have been issued or charges brought. County election officials have maintained the legitimacy of the votes the past two years, which have been certified and audited with no evidence of voter fraud. File image.

Saying he’s not convinced the numbers from the voter registration rolls add up, Sheriff Calvin Hayden has joined the ranks of others casting down on the legitimacy of recent election results in Johnson County.

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the state. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who has addressed concerns about the integrity of the 2020 elections from fellow Republicans for months now, has repeatedly affirmed that voter fraud did not sway the results.

And Johnson County’s top election official calls assertions of election irregularities “baseless” and part of a broader push to “erode public confidence in elections.”

Key takeaways

• Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden has assigned a county employee to investigate what he calls “irregularities” in voter registration numbers from 2020.

• Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab has repeatedly confirmed that election fraud did not influence the outcome of the 2020 elections.

• “Baseless attacks aimed at Johnson County’s elections process are consistent with a concerted nationwide effort to push agendas and narratives to erode public confidence in elections,” Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman said in a statement.

Still, some Republicans have continued to invoke the specter of stolen elections in public.

Hayden told the Post Monday he has assigned an officer to investigate voting data in the most recent elections in 2020 and 2021 to try to answer questions that have been coming in from people concerned that the elections might have irregularities.

The investigator will be working on county time to conduct the investigation, Hayden confirmed.

On Monday night, Hayden appeared at a local Republican Party gathering along with Thad Snider, an Overland Park resident who has sued 27 government entities in the county and state over both election-related questions and coronavirus mitigation measures.

Hayden’s remarks to the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives followed a presentation in which Snider said he believed election crimes were committed based on what he called statistical anomalies in party registration, turnout and denial of his requests to look at other election material on drop boxes.

Snider said the county results should be decertified.

In his own remarks, Hayden didn’t go that far and delivered wider ranging comments on drugs and open borders, solar farm development and the national response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But he said in the earlier interview that he’s had an information tech employee working for the last half year on questions about the county’s election process.

“Any time somebody makes a complaint we’re obligated to investigate it to the successful conclusion and obviously we’re not to a successful conclusion yet so we’re still working on it,” he said.

He added that people are “requesting volumes and volumes of data” through public records requests regarding the most recent elections.

Specifically, Hayden said he questions voter registration numbers that show a gain of over 34,000 registered voters for Democrats that don’t seem to be balanced by registration changes elsewhere, when 10,000 people are moving into the county every year.

The county has 444,000 registered voters in a population of over 600,000.

In October 2020, the Johnson County Election Office reported a 12% increase in the total number of registered voters compared to 2016, with the number of registered Democrats jumping by about 41%. At that time, Democrats made up roughly 30% of all registered voters in Johnson County.

Republicans had gained about 6% in registered voters since 2016 and made up about 43% of the total voter population at that time.

Neither in his interview with the Post nor his talk Monday night did Hayden provide evidence of particular cases of alleged voter fraud in Johnson County.

He did question the security of the drop boxes used for ballots in 2020 and questioned whether there was enough oversight of the election volunteers.

“When something looks like a duck and talks like a duck it just might be a duck,” he said of the concerns about irregularities.

County resources used for investigation

The officer has been tasked with looking at a huge amount of data, he said. But it is not, so far, a criminal investigation.

“What we’ve found is it’s very difficult to find a person we can charge,” he said.

The investigator is not working full time on the election questions but is working on the county clock, Hayden confirmed.

However he couldn’t estimate how much of his office’s budget has been spent on the project, since the hours have not been separated from the employee’s other duties.

Nothing so far has risen to the level of presenting it to District Attorney Steve Howe’s attention for charges or subpoenas, he said.

Snider’s presentation Monday was a repeat of remarks he made Feb. 1 before a state Senate committee.

Among other things, he questioned whether the office had followed proper procedure in getting the correct number of signatures from those who handled the ballot envelopes.

Election officials’ response

Election Commissioner Fred Sherman, reached by the Post before Hayden’s and Snider’s talks Monday, referred to Snider’s previous Senate presentation, which contained no specific allegations of actual voter fraud.

He said the county election office made some workflow changes during the past election due to a redesign of the ballot envelope that did away with the “privacy flap.”

The new design meant that workers did not have to spend time removing the flaps and that changed the way the envelopes traveled through the office and signatures they might receive.

He noted that the county election office has a bipartisan system of redundancy ensuring that no one can be in the receiving room alone with the ballots and that two people – one from each party – go to pick up the drop box ballots.

In a separate statement later issued by the county, Sherman vouched for the integrity of the county’s election system overall:

“We stand by the integrity of Johnson County elections — and fully support all registered voters casting their ballots freely, safely and without intimidation — whether by mail, drop box or in person. The county has implemented a wide range of measures to ensure all eligible ballots are counted and election outcomes are accurate and fair. Every ballot is accounted for, and returns are reconciled with the poll books and applications for advance ballot. Baseless attacks aimed at Johnson County’s elections process are consistent with a concerted nationwide effort to push agendas and narratives to erode public confidence in elections.”

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who frequently reports for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at roxieham@gmail.com