Sheriff Ken McGovern in the last two elections helped his elderly mother obtain a ballot to vote in Douglas County, despite evidence that his mother lives in a Johnson County nursing home. A spokesman with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office confirmed that the matter had been forwarded to state prosecutors for review and possible charges. When questioned by the Journal-World, McGovern confirmed that during the 2016 primary election in August he picked up an advance ballot at the county courthouse for his mother, Lois McGovern. Sheriff McGovern signed a document listing that his mother was registered to vote at 2803 Schwarz Road in Lawrence. County records, however, show that Lois McGovern sold that home more than a year before the primary election. Sheriff McGovern confirmed to the Journal-World that his mother was not living at the house during the primary election. In the November general election, McGovern again went to pick up an advance ballot for his mother. But this time he faced pushback from a county employee who had knowledge that McGovern’s mother did not live at the Schwarz Road address, a source with knowledge of the incident told the Journal-World. But Sheriff McGovern eventually was allowed to take a ballot to his mother, after her address was changed to that of Sheriff McGovern’s west Lawrence home. McGovern, though, confirmed to the Journal-World that his mother does not live with him. Sheriff McGovern declined to say where his mother lived, and he refused to confirm that she lives in Douglas County. “Where she is living doesn’t make a difference,” McGovern said.
… In the land of Secretary of State Kris Kobach — one of the nation’s most ardent supporters of voter ID and proof of citizenship laws — it may be surprising that laws are vague on whether you have to live in the county you vote in. But people who have studied Kansas voter law aren’t surprised. They know of a longtime quirk in Kansas voting law — if you once lived in a Kansas community, there are relatively easy ways to continue voting in the community, even if you haven’t lived there for decades. “Under the law, you can be absent for 20 or 30 years and still vote,” Caskey said.
Maybe your brother is running for city council in your old hometown that you no longer live in. Kansas law may provide a way to vote for him anyway. The key, election experts say, is that you need to be prepared to utter the phrase “I intend to return.” In other words, even though you don’t live in your old hometown, you need to be able to say that you once did, and you plan to return there someday.
In that situation — as long as the secretary of state doesn’t have evidence that you also are voting in another location — you likely could figure out a way to vote in your old hometown. How? Kansas voting law has a broad definition of what constitutes residency. In particular, the Kansas law has a phrase that says residence means a place “to which, whenever such person is absent, such person has the intention of returning.”