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Johnson County judge throws out lawsuit attempting to 'undermine' 2020 election results

A voter cast her ballot on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A voter cast her ballot on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.

Two Olathe residents sought a temporary injunction to block the Johnson County Election Office from destroying ballots and other data from the 2020 presidential election, citing unfounded claims about voting integrity.

A lawsuit filed by two Olathe residents that asked for preservation of Johnson County’s 2020 election data in order to aid in Sheriff Calvin Hayden’s ongoing investigation into local elections has been dismissed by a district court judge.

The suit, filed without an attorney by Katie Roberts and Hannah Mingucci Aug. 4, sought a temporary injunction that would prevent county election officials from destroying ballots, computer equipment and other records after September 4.

Officials are allowed by law to destroy old data twenty-two months after an election.

The two plaintiffs said they spoke for many others in their skepticism about the 2020 election results. Their suit, which they said was filed independently of Sheriff Hayden, did not ask that anything be done with the records, only that they be preserved.

Though recent polling data shows a sizable minority of Americans — and nearly 70% of Republicans — now profess the belief that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, the election’s validity has been repeatedly reaffirmed and dozens of lawsuits seeking to challenge those results around the country have been dismissed.

The lawsuit

District Court Judge James Vano concluded Roberts and Mingucci did not have standing to sue, noting they did not have sufficient claim of harm or injury if the records were destroyed.

The 101-page petition cited theories from election skeptics across the country that have evoked fears about the integrity of the election process since Donald Trump lost his reelection bid to Joe Biden.

The suit mentioned concerns and doubts about various election systems, but Vano questioned whether the plaintiffs had verified those claims for Johnson County.

The suit named Election Commissioner Fred Sherman, County Commission Chair Ed Eilert and the board of county commissioners as defendants.

A man and a woman standing on either side of a cluster of electronic voting machines cast their votes.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Voters at the Johnson County Arts and Culture Center in Overland Park cast their ballots early Aug. 2, 2022.

This week’s hearing

At a hearing Monday, Roberts said she is not an attorney, but it was “put on my heart to do this.”

“We’re not lawyers, we’re not cyber experts, we’re not even election experts,” she said. “I’m just a mom. I have incredible instincts and when something feels off more than likely it’s off.”

Roberts explained that she began to be suspicious of the results on Election Night 2020.

She went to bed that night thinking Donald Trump had won reelection, but was astonished when returns continuing the next day indicated otherwise.

After doing her own research, she said she came to believe the voting machines were not safe and that a hand recount or vote audit would be in order.

Roberts then related the explanation she gave to her 10-year-old. She likened it to a card game in which one child kept losing at cards. At some point, that child would suspect the other player of cheating and ask to show the cards, she said.

“We want the other side to prove they are not cheating and that our vote actually is who we cast our vote for,” she concluded.

Johnson County Deputy Director of Legal Services Cynthia Dunham argued that Roberts and Mingucci did not prove any personal harm should the records be destroyed.

She also said the county would continue to preserve the 2020 election data during Hayden’s ongoing investigation, which she noted in Monday’s hearing may be completed soon.

Hayden’s office has not responded to the Post’s request for comment on when the investigation may conclude.

The judge’s ruling

Vano noted in his decision that Roberts and Mingucci did not give sufficient reason why they waited until almost the end of the 22-month period — nearly two years after the 2020 election — before filing their petition.

The two could also not legally claim to represent a larger group of concerned citizens, he said.

Nor could they claim to be acting on behalf of the sheriff or other officials, who can make their own request for record preservation, Vano said.

Roberts did say in Monday’s hearing that they filed their lawsuit on their own, independent of Hayden.

“It has not been made clear to the Court how or why a court action like this gets any more useful information,” Vano wrote. “It seems instead the prayer for an injunction of indefinite length and purpose is only to keep a vague notion alive to undermine the finality of the 2020 election.

“That said, if there is a flaw in the election process, uncovering it and correcting it going forward is a worthy nonpartisan project in the best interest of the public. It has simply not been made clear to the Court how the indefinite retention of certain election year data is necessary to address that goal,” he said.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Contact her at roxieham@gmail.com.
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