Kobach is prosecuting this confused senior with four counts of felony voter fraud

The 67-year-old cattle rancher is a registered Republican.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discusses the Kansas proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration in his office in Topeka, Ks. Wednesday February 17, 2015. CREDIT: Christopher Smith/ For the Washington Post
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discusses the Kansas proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration in his office in Topeka, Ks. Wednesday February 17, 2015. CREDIT: Christopher Smith/ For the Washington Post

For the past few years, Que J. Fullmer has split his time between Kansas and Colorado. He owns a cattle company and roughly 1,000 acres in Syracuse, Kansas, and his wife lives in Brighton, Colorado, where the couple owns a home and 300 acres.

In November 2016, Fullmer cast ballots in both states. He figured that because he pays taxes in both places, he was entitled to have his voice heard in local and state races in two states. He only voted for president, Donald Trump, in Kansas.

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Now he is facing four felony charges — two counts of voting without being qualified, one count of voting more than once, and one count of “advance voting unlawful acts.” If convicted of all of them, Fullmer faces steep fines and two years probation.

“I didn’t know I had multiple charges,” Fullmer, a registered Republican, told ThinkProgress Friday by phone. “I just voted in state things in both states. In only one of the states I voted in the general.” The 67-year-old small business owner said he was unaware that the law prohibits him from casting ballots in state or local races in multiple states.

On Thursday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) announced he was bringing criminal charges against two people for voting illegally in 2016 — Fullmer and 20-year-old Bailey Ann McCaughey, who is also accused of voting in both Kansas and Colorado. The prosecutions bring the total number of people Kobach has charged with voter fraud to 15. So far, the cases have resulted in nine convictions or plea deals totaling $30,000 in fines, and one dismissal. Many of the prosecuted citizens have, like Fullmer, been confused seniors.

“Stopping voter fraud is one of the most important things the Secretary of State’s office can do,” Kobach said in a statement Thursday. “These prosecutions will help deter voter fraud in the future.”

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Fullmer is scheduled to appear in Syracuse, Kansas court on February 1. He says he plans to attend without a lawyer, even though he does not know much about the charges he faces. He told ThinkProgress he hasn’t yet read the citation he received last month, but would do so after the phone call.

“I had somebody pick it up and I haven’t looked at it yet,” he said. “I haven’t gotten into it yet…. I’ll definitely look into it now.”

He was also unaware that Kobach is one of the most prominent Republicans in the country when it comes to propagating the myth of widespread voter fraud and feeding President Trump false narratives about illegal voting.

“He’s a congressman or something?” Fullmer asked about Kobach, who is currently the only secretary of state in the country with the power to bring prosecutions against voters, a power he obtained in 2015 because he said district attorneys did not have the time or resources to adequately prosecute these crimes.

Fullmer said he agrees that states should require voter ID, and he has no problem with Republican politicians passing laws they claim will prevent voter fraud. “I don’t think people should vote unless they contribute to society,” he said, laughing.

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While he has heard talk on the news of “voter fraud,” he said he always assumed that term referred to “politicians getting low-lifes to travel around the city and vote multiple times.”

“I figured that’s what double voting was,” he said.

Fullmer said he almost certainly voted for Kobach when he ran for secretary of state in 2010 and 2014. “I’m sure I did,” he said. “He’s a Republican. I’m sure.”

Kobach’s latest prosecutions came less than a day after President Trump announced he was dissolving the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a group that Kobach led alongside Vice President Mike Pence. Kobach claimed that Democrats on the panel sabotaged their opportunity to be involved in setting federal election policy, but one Democratic commissioner told ThinkProgress that Kobach’s attempt to blame him is “balderdash.” The commission had been mired in controversy since its inception in May 2016 and Kobach’s refusal to conduct his work transparently ultimately led to its failure, the Democratic commissioner, Matt Dunlap, said.

But Kobach’s involvement in spreading the myth of voter fraud will no doubt continue. As he runs for Kansas governor this year, he will be in close contact with the Department of Homeland Security, which Trump says will take over the investigation of illegal voting. Kobach hopes the agency will identify non-citizens on the voter rolls and push for laws that will ultimately make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote.

Kobach will also continue to use Kansas as a testing ground for suppressive voting laws. The state runs the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, a database filled with errors that has caused thousands of eligible voters across the country to have their names taken off the voter rolls. And he has pushed for a proof-of-citizenship law that would require people to show documentation like a U.S. passport, birth certificate, or naturalization papers to register to vote. A federal judge blocked his effort in Kansas, but recently unsealed documents show that Kobach advised Trump to work on such a proof-of-citizenship law on the federal level.

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Kobach repeatedly claims that hundreds of non-citizens are on the voter rolls, yet he has only prosecuted one non-citizen for voting in Kansas. The Peruvian national was sentenced to unsupervised probation for up to three years and required to pay a fine of $5,000.

A representative for Kobach’s office did not respond to a request for comment about his latest prosecutions Friday. In April 2017, Kobach told the Kansas City Star that it’s “absurd” for anyone to say that voter fraud is not a widespread problem, even when he has failed to identify anywhere close to the number of illegal voters he says exist.

“No matter how many cases we prosecute the political left will always whine that there’s not enough cases to justify protecting our elections in this way,” he said.