A 20-year-old woman accused of voter fraud in Finney County by Secretary of State Kris Kobach says it was an “honest mistake” when she double voted while voting for the first time during the 2016 presidential election without knowing that her mother in Colorado had already submitted her mail-in ballot.
When Bailey Ann McCaughey was reached for comment on her reaction to the news issued in a press release by Kobach’s office on Thursday, she said it was the first time she had heard Kobach wanted to prosecute.
McCaughey was 19 and attending Garden City Community College when she voted. She now attends Fort Hays State University and says an agent sent by Kobach’s office contacted her sometime around August.
The agent met with her in person to take down her version of events. After she informed him that it had been a mistake and that her mother had sent in her mail-in ballot without her knowledge before she voted at the polls, she said the agent told her he would report the details back to Topeka, assuring her that it was unlikely anything would come of it and she would be notified if further action would be taken.
She was not notified by the time the secretary of state's office announced the addition of two more criminal complaints, one of which charges her with one count of election perjury and one count of voting more than once for “double voting” in Finney County and Colorado in 2016.
“What is happening? Where do I go from here?” McCaughey said on Thursday. “I guess I don’t understand because I’m not getting any information.”
According to Kobach’s office, he has convicted nine people of voter fraud crimes since receiving prosecutorial authority in July 2015. He said in the release that there are three other cases pending in addition to the two new cases for a total of 14 cases over the course of two and a half years. As of October 2016, a month before the presidential election, there were 1,817,927 registered voters in Kansas, according to the secretary of state's office.
“Stopping voter fraud is one of the most important things the secretary of state’s office can do,” Kobach said in his release. “These prosecutions will help deter voter fraud in the future.”
Kobach is also prosecuting Que J. Fulmer, who has been charged with two counts of voting without being qualified, one count of voting more than once and one count of unlawful acts involving advance voting during the 2016 presidential election. According to Kobach’s office, Fulmer’s actions included double voting in Hamilton County and Colorado in the same election.
Fulmer could not be reached for comment.
Kobach’s office did not return several calls seeking comment.
Judy McCaughey, Bailey’s mother, said she and her husband are “very concerned as her parents and consider this unacceptable.” She added that Bailey is “terrified” and has said she never wants to vote again.
“She voted while in Garden City at college and had filled out a mail-in ballot, which I sent and not realizing that she had voted in Kansas,” Mrs. McCaughey said. “The agent/detective that she met with a few months ago told her that it was an honest mistake, he would report that back and there shouldn’t be any charges or any issues and that he would get back to her. That was the last thing we [heard.]”
Rep. John Wheeler, R-Garden City, served for 20 years as Finney County attorney until 2013, when Kobach was already mounting his voter fraud campaign even before getting prosecutorial power. At that time, it was solely up to county attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases.
Wheeler said during a Legislative Coffee session Saturday at St. Catherine Hospital that he opposed giving the secretary of state’s office prosecutorial power at every stage while serving on the board of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association.
“During that time as county attorney, I had two cases referred to me,” Wheeler said of Kobach’s voter fraud campaign. “The one I didn’t take because it was 19 years old. I’m sorry, but why would the prosecutor of election fraud, now, send me a case 19 years old? Does that prosecutor not know that there’s a two-year statute of limitations? No, that should not be in that office.”
The other offender, he said, was an 89-year-old man in Emporia who didn’t know voting in two states was against the law. Before Wheeler could even think about prosecuting, he first had to send a sheriff’s deputy to investigate the case and determine if it was provable. When the bewildered man admitted that he had voted in Kansas and Oklahoma, Wheeler gave him diversion, which legally counts as a conviction.
“That really upset the secretary of state,” Wheeler said, adding that he would not have filed charges against McCaughey if she didn’t know she was voting twice.
“That’s why we need to get the prosecutorial power out of the secretary of state’s office and back in the local prosecutor’s office where we can handle them rationally,” Wheeler said.
Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said her office has not been consulted or requested to file charges on possible voter fraud, meaning Kobach is taking on the case himself.
McCaughey said on Tuesday that she has retained an attorney and consulted with the elections division of the secretary of state’s office.
“They told me they could not share any information with me,” she said. “I didn’t really know what was happening, but I guess I’ll just take care of it and move on. It’s kind of a pain.”
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.