Kansas secretary of state finds $400,000 discrepancy in funds intended to upgrade voting systems

Kansas secretary of state finds $400,000 discrepancy in funds intended to upgrade voting systems
Donald Trump and Kris Kobach (Screengrab).
Election '16

Kris Kobach, the failed candidate for Governor of Kansas has been in the news today as the architect of census altering questions that many believe were aimed at voter suppression. While the former Secretary of State faced pushback on Capital Hill, in Kansas, his Republican successor discovered that his basic incompetence serving in the office he had resulted in significant budget errors.

From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

The Kansas secretary of state said Tuesday overdue reports covering three years of expenditures from a federal grant for upgrading voting systems across Kansas and the correction of a $400,000 accounting error in another annual report had been submitted to a federal commission as required.

Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who took office in January, said a major discrepancy was discovered in the 2015 report outlining use of grant money sent to Kansas under the Help America Vote Act for the period of October 2014 through September 2015. In addition, expenditure reports due each Dec. 31 covering the 2016, 2017 and 2018 federal fiscal years of the grant have been submitted to the Election Assistance Commission.

The error existed in a 2015 report, the last report which had been submitted by the former office holder, who failed to file the required reports for three years. While Kobach asked and received more powers for the office of Secretary of State, it appears, according to now Secretary of State Scott Schwabb (R, Johnson County), that the failure to actually do his job may have put the state at risk of losing millions of dollars in HAVA grant funds, aimed at providing for election support for the entire state.

Democratic elected officials expressed genuine anger over the error. Democratic State Senator Marci Francisco, in a phone call, said: “It is concerning, and we need to find out why this happened and we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Kobach’s use (and potential misuse) of funds from HAVA (The Help America Vote Act) became a campaign issue in 2018, when his Republican primary rivals contended his use of the fund created gimmicky accounting. In the primary debate, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported this exchange and response:

In Hutton’s view, this suggested 85 cents of every $1 reduction claimed by Kobach was associated with downsizing of HAVA.

“The people of Kansas are tired of the gimmicks and games from the politicians in Topeka, whether it’s budgets that don’t balance from (Sam) Brownback and (Gov. Jeff) Colyer, or Kobach lying about his own budget to claim credit for something he didn’t do,” Hutton said.

Hutton does not have a clue,” Kobach said.

The state’s HAVA fund holds more than $3 million, Kobach said. The secretary of state’s office, which is a fee funded agency, collected $11.7 million in 2017 and spent $4.6 million during the year. More than $7 million was forwarded to the state’s general budget, Kobach said.

In the end, as Kansans are discovering now, despite all the bluster of saving money and who had a “clue”, it was Kris Kobach himself who managed to keep others completely in the dark as to the use of the funds, and his failure to follow proper reporting guidelines.

Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwabb announced the discovery today, contending that he felt as though a commitment to transparency would serve the office well, and told press he would work to address these kind of errors going forward.

Gone from office for more than six months, the damage left behind by the former Secretary of State continues to cast a shadow over the Kansas State house.

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