GOP Kansas Rep. Watkins changes voter registration 2nd time

Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A freshman Kansas congressman has changed his voter registration for the second time in six weeks after coming under investigation for potentially violating state election laws for previously listing a UPS Inc. store as his residence.

Republican Rep. Steve Watkins listed a Topeka apartment as his residential address on a registration form filed Jan. 17, the Kansas secretary of state's office confirmed Friday. Watkins had listed a different address in the same complex, the one for its office, when he previously changed his registration Dec. 6.

Questions about Watkins' voter registration could complicate his bid for re-election in his eastern Kansas district. Some Republicans already want to oust him and State Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging him in the GOP primary.

The apartment that he lists as his home is about 2 miles north of the UPS store with the postal box that Watkins listed as his residential address on a voter registration form filed in late August. The UPS box also was listed as his residence when he cast a ballot that included a Topeka City Council race last November.

The apartment complex now listed is outside that council district.

The Shawnee County sheriff's department began investigating in December whether Watkins broke state laws, but no findings have been announced.

Watkins spokesman Dylan Jones has said listing the UPS store as Watkins' residence was an inadvertent mistake. The congressman's chief of staff, Jim Joice, told the Kansas City Star that questions about Watkins' registration were "just another petty attempt by the political establishment" to undermine Watkins politically.

Kansas law makes it a felony for someone to make a false statement in registering to vote or to cast a vote in a district in which they're not qualified to do so.

Jones did not immediately return an email message Friday seeking comment and information about exactly when Watkins moved into the apartment or why he continues to list the UPS store box as a separate mailing address.

Watkins won the November 2018 election by less than 1 percentage point after emerging from a crowded Republican primary with less than 27% of the vote. LaTurner and other Republicans contend he'd be vulnerable to losing his seat to a Democrat this year. The only Democratic candidate so far is Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla.