Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who has spent months promoting a criminal investigation into elections, told a gathering of residents last week that “we’ve got to find somebody” who knows election rigging is happening.
But the Republican sheriff appeared to acknowledge he doesn’t have probable cause, the legal standard required to seek a search or arrest warrant, after the investigation helped foster baseless suspicions of voter fraud. He also said he launched the inquiry to force the preservation of 2020 election records.
The comments came during a nearly two-hour meeting inside a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office facility. Video of the meeting, which took place Aug. 30, was posted on Friday on Rumble, a video sharing platform popular among the right-wing politicians and supporters. Hayden’s remarks offer additional insight into an investigation that hasn’t led to any charges or arrests but has helped build his profile among election deniers.
At the meeting, Hayden appeared to lay the groundwork to explain why his amorphous investigation hasn’t progressed. He told the audience that he has “tons of reasonable suspicion” but says he needs probable cause for a search warrant “to swear I know a crime has been committed.”
He also alluded to baseless conspiracy theories that allege China stole the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump. Some Trump supporters, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, have promoted the baseless idea.
“Well, here’s the problem. If China is the bad guy, I’ve got a problem. I can’t put cuffs on those guys. A lot of them,” Hayden said. “So we’ve got to find somebody that had an idea of what they’re doing and honest to God, I don’t think any of our election helpers, I’m not sure even our election folks who are putting it on, have any idea of what’s going on. I don’t really think they do,” Hayden said.
Election denialism has proliferated in Kansas, driven in part by Hayden casting a cloud of suspicion over elections in the most populous county in the state. The recently-concluded August primary election also drove baseless fears, after anti-abortion activists paid nearly $120,000 to recount the landslide rejection of an amendment to strip abortion rights from the state constitution.