U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ decision to sign a Kansas voter registration form and two other election documents that asserted his residential address was a UPS Store in Topeka could constitute felony voter fraud under federal law and election perjury under state statute, officials said Tuesday.
Shawnee County records show the first-term Republican listed his official residence as 6021 S.W. 29th St. in Topeka, which corresponds to a UPS Store, when he signed a form to change his residency for voter registration purposes in August, signed an application for a mail-in ballot in October and signed a document to complete advance voting for the November election.
It isn’t clear where the congressman physically resided in Kansas after August nor what Topeka precinct he was legally qualified to be part of when voting in November. By asserting his place of residence to be the UPS Store, Watkins left the Topeka City Council’s 5th District for the city council’s 8th District. He then cast a November ballot in an 8th District contest decided by 13 votes.
Jim Joice, Watkins’ chief of staff, said questions about the residency issue posed by The Topeka Capital-Journal led to a staff review of the congressman’s voter registration. He said Watkins mistakenly portrayed his residence to be the UPS building.
“He just filed it incorrectly,” said Joice, who deflected criticism of Watkins. “I think that’s a little ludicrous.”
A bipartisan contingent of Kansas politicians was critical of Watkins’ handling of his residential declaration. Several of these Democrats and Republicans said they suspected Watkins’ acts rose to the level of criminal conduct.