TOPEKA – (November 16, 2018) – The Legislature should repeal the authority of the secretary of state to prosecute criminal cases of voter fraud, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
Schmidt, with the support of Secretary of State-elect Scott Schwab, announced proposed legislation to repeal the secretary of state’s prosecution authority but leave authority with the attorney general and with local county and district attorneys.
“With the change in leadership in the secretary of state’s office, particularly since the new secretary will not be an attorney, it appears the time is right for a more traditional approach to enforcing the state’s criminal laws against voter fraud,” Schmidt said. “The secretary of state would remain responsible for detecting cases of potential fraud and referring them for criminal investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution by the attorney general or local prosecutors.”
Schmidt said that, unlike in 2015 when the Legislature enacted the secretary of state’s prosecution authority, the attorney general’s office now has a Fraud and Abuse Litigation Division, created in 2016, that has capacity to handle the relatively small number of voter fraud prosecutions. That same year, the Legislature enacted a statute declaring as state policy that criminal prosecution authority, other than that exercised by county or district attorneys, should be consolidated with the attorney general.
“It will be more efficient for our professional prosecutors to handle voter fraud cases together with our other fraud and abuse cases rather than for the secretary of state to maintain separate prosecution capacity,” Schmidt said.
Schwab said he supports Schmidt’s recommendation that the authority to prosecute criminal cases be vested with the attorney general, not with the secretary of state.
“Attorney General Schmidt has shared with me his ideas regarding prosecutorial authority,” Schwab said. “I see nothing that causes me concern and I thank him for taking the lead on this issue.”
Schmidt and Schwab said they will work closely together to ensure any voter fraud cases warranting criminal prosecution receive the appropriate attention from the attorney general’s office or from local county and district attorneys. They said they will request introduction of the proposal after the Legislature convenes in January.