Nagging, unanswered doubts about Johnson County’s and Kansas’ election security to be aired at special legislative hearing

Thad Snider is a citizen sleuth who, you can tell by listening to, is no slouch. Yet, no one in officialdom will listen to him as he claims to have spotted possible serious vulnerabilities and anomalies in Johnson County, Kansas, elections.

Well, a special legislative joint subcommittee will listen to him and others on both sides of the issue during a two-day hearing on election integrity Thursday and Friday in Topeka.

Snider’s concerns – which he shared at pillow maker Mike Lindell’s Election Crime Bureau Summit in Springfield, Missouri, Aug. 16-17 – include the county’s electronic voting machines’ security; the chain of custody of ballots; and the fact that surveillance footage of the county’s unsecured ballot drop boxes during the 2020 election may not have ever been viewed by anyone – and isn’t being made available even to the sheriff, who’s probing the issue.

In addition, the county says footage from seven of the eight drop boxes has been taped over.

Snider, who’s among several ordinary citizens investigating the issue, also says the county is withholding “cast-vote records; system log files; (voter verifiable paper audit trail) ballots; ballot images; ballot envelope images; and chain of custody records.”

Snider isn’t alleging any fraud. Not yet, anyway. He’s merely questioning the system to see if fraud could even be detected.

“I’ll stipulate and say that nothing bad has ever happened in Kansas elections,” he tells The Heartlander. “Something could happen. And that’s a problem, because there are so many security vulnerabilities along the way that you leave the door open for theft. 

“If you have a vault full of gold and you leave the door unlocked all the time but nobody steals gold, it’s still vulnerable. And that’s kind of where we’re at.”

Neither is state Sen. Mike Thompson, chair of the Federal and State Affairs Committee and a special Committee on Elections, alleging anything. As the man who requested Thursday and Friday’s hearing, he says he just wants to explore the state’s election security – what the state has already done about it, and what it may need to do.

“I want to hear from all sorts of different people,” he says of the hearing, which runs from 9:30-4:15 Thursday and 9:30-3 p.m. Friday in Room 112-N of the Capitol.

Thompson isn’t without concerns, however, specifically noting the state’s three-day grace period to get mail ballots in after the polls close on Election Day, as well as private dollars being used in elections and voter registration around the nation.

“Even though there might not be anything nefarious going on,” he says, “I think from a voter confidence standpoint, we want to do everything we can to make sure people believe that our elections are secure and that they actually are.”

Thompson also pointed to Johnson County’s recent mailing out of over 400,000 advance ballot applications – already filled out with voters’ personal information, and completely unsolicited by voters.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people about that – very concerned that, ‘Well, why am I getting this?’,” Thompson says.

The senator is most concerned about the three-day grace period.

“There are a number of different polling places around the state for early voting, and numerous ways that you can get your mail-in ballot in,” he argues. “You’ve got plenty of time to get it done. I mean, we get all sorts of different excuses. My idea, and I think a lot of us think it’s smart, but the end time should be the end time. So, your ballot should be received by Election Day. 

“That way, there’s a uniform end time for everybody. I think it just makes sense, because that three-day grace period of receiving ballots just gives people more hesitancy (about election integrity). They keep saying on election night they think one person won, and then three days later when they count the ballots they say, ‘Well, another guy won.’ Then people think, ‘Well, somebody did something nefarious.’ It may or may not have been. …

“Voting, to me, is your civic duty. And if somebody desires to vote, they should get off the couch and go vote. And I think voting in person is probably the best way. We really should restrict, I think, all this advance voting to people who have a true (need) to be able to do so.”

The Heartlander asked a county spokesperson for comment.

We also asked both Thompson and Snider if Kansans are wrong to believe their elections are secure.

“Well, there are groups who don’t believe they’re secure,” Thompson says. “They’re worried about the electronic machines and the ways that those can be manipulated. And we’re obviously going to hear from some groups who have done a lot of research about that.”

Snider will be among them.

“You know, good enough has been the enemy of perfect when it comes to election security,” Snider says, “because everybody has just rested on their laurels and said, ‘Oh, Kansas is a red state. We’re fine.’ No, we’re not. And to think that nobody is going to look at these security vulnerabilities and take advantage of them is naive.”

Snider’s concerns are shared by others across the country – including Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who is investigating the county’s election system. Last year the CEO of election software company Konnech was arrested. The Los Angeles district attorney announced that personal information from the company’s PollChief system for managing and deploying poll workers was being stored on servers in the People’s Republic of China.

Charges have since been dismissed, but Johnson County poll workers’ information was caught up in the scandal. The county claimed it found “no evidence of malicious activity,” but nonetheless “transferred the PollChief election worker management system from Konnech Inc. to servers under Johnson County Government’s exclusive control.”

While coming to no conclusions, Snider does question the size of the Democrats’ surge in Johnson County – noting an 11% Republican-to-Democrat swing from the 2016 election to 2020, even as Trump surged in popularity among GOP voters – who held a 195,000 to 138,000 advantage in county registration.

The Democrat presidential nominee won Johnson County for the first time in 114 years, Snider says.

“So, the outcomes are starting to look inorganic,” he adds.

Johnson County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara says she is deeply concerned about the election integrity issues and what she says is her county colleagues’ animosity toward the sheriff’s probe.

“As an elected official, the most troubling aspect on the issue of election security is that, in an open investigation, the sheriff has been blocked from access to the electronics of Johnson County voting machines,” O’Hara wrote to the Heartlander.

“I have asked why law enforcement isn’t allowed access to every aspect of the machines when there is an open investigation into election security. The excuse is, this is proprietary information, trade secrets. And law enforcement isn’t exempt from that agreement in our contract with the vendor? 

“I question why any elected official would sign a contract with such restrictions.”

Like Thompson, O’Hara questions the wisdom of the county election commissioner’s decision to send out some 418,000 unsolicited pre-filled ballots – but also the Secretary of State’s tacit approval of it.

“The message they both appear to be sending is total disregard of many, many voters’ concern of election security,” O’Hara writes. “I will continue to speak about the advance ballot mailing and I will do what I can to advance the sheriff’s request for access to Johnson County’s electronic voting machines and any other information he needs to complete this open investigation.

“I will stand strong against any disparaging remarks from my colleagues on the (Board of County Commissioners) toward the sheriff’s investigation, which have already occurred, and I will stand strong against any attempt to defund his investigation on the security of our elections.”

Snider shares all those concerns and more. But he has one other overarching worry.

“Well, my biggest concern is that the Legislature, which has plenary constitutional power over our elections, has no authority. They have no say. They have no insights into how our elections are conducted.

“They’ve completely abdicated their constitutional responsibility to the executive branch. And when you get into the executive branch, they have abdicated their role in administration and enforcement to third-party for-profit contractors. Our entire elections are conducted by companies that make money off elections.

“That’s what the whole purpose of this special committee on elections is, is to appeal to the Legislature to take back (control) over the elections and conduct them in a manner that is free, fair and transparent.”


About The Author

Get News, the way it was meant to be:

Fair. Factual. Trustworthy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.