GOP rep: Wrong address on voter registration form 'a mistake, not a felony'

Kansas Rep. Steve WatkinsSteven (Steve) Charles WatkinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Virus bill unlikely to pass this week Rep. Steve Watkins loses Kansas primary after voter fraud charges MORE (R) responded to questions about the felony voter fraud charges against him, saying he simply made a mistake on his voter registration application. 

“I wasn’t hiding the ball,” Watkins told The Kansas City Star in an interview.

In 2019, Watkins voted in the wrong city council district.

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He admitted in the interview with the Star that he did indeed vote in the wrong district but claimed there was no intent behind the action, adding that it was an oversight. 

“I put my mailing address instead of my physical address on a voter registration and inadvertently received a ballot for the incorrect, I believe, Topeka city council race. Now, that’s a mistake not a felony,” Watkins said.

The first-term lawmaker was charged by Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay on four counts: interference with law enforcement, providing false information; voting without being qualified; unlawful advance voting; and failing to notify the DMV of change of address, according to county court records.

Amid the investigation, Watkins temporarily stepped down from his committee assignments in the Foreign Affairs Committee, Education and Labor Committee, and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Watkins said that he erroneously put the address of his local postal office instead of his home address out of habit because when he spent time in the Middle East, he always used his mailing address. 

The Star reported, however, that the congressman had not voted in any American election until 2017. 

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Watkins also denied placing blame on a staffer for the mix-up. Prosecutors maintain that Watkins told them a staffer put the wrong address on his ballot application, according to the Star. He said what he told prosecutors was taken out of context. 

Watkins also said it was not unusual for congressional staffers to be involved in his personal documents, such as a voter registration form.

“At no point did I lie or try to place blame onto a staffer,” he said. “Reports to the contrary are fake news.” 

He called the charges a politically motivated “charade” in favor of his Republican primary challenger, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

Watkins's father, Steve Watkins Sr., funneled six figures into a super PAC promoting his son’s candidacy in 2018, the Star reported. He is reportedly facing a Federal Election Commission inquiry into contributions he had directed to his son’s campaign through other donors, which is illegal.