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Weekend Headlines for August 4-5, 2018

Report: Trump Commission Did Not Find Widespread Voter Fraud

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's secretary of state says the now-disbanded voting integrity commission launched by the Trump administration uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud. Democrat Matthew Dunlap on Friday released over 1,000 documents the Trump administration had forwarded to him to comply with a court order. He wrote to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that the documents show there was a "pre-ordained outcome." Pence was chair of the commission and Kobach was vice-chair.Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after making unsubstantiated claims that between 3 million and 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Critics, including Dunlap, reject his claims of widespread voter fraud. Kobach called Dunlap "willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose."

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Kansas Governor Candidate Hopes to Find Support Among Women

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The only woman in the five-way Democratic primary race for Kansas governor hopes that female voters will make their voices heard during the upcoming primary. State Senator Laura Kelly is hoping that women will support her when they go to the polls Tuesday, The Kansas City Star reported . It will be the Democrats' first primary for governor in Kansas in two decades "I think this all sort of started bubbling up with the Women's March right after the inauguration, and the momentum has just kept going," Kelly said when asked about the role of women in the primary. Women typically make up 55 to 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate nationally, said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. Female candidates have won two-thirds of primary races when there's no Democratic incumbent, he said. "Democratic women seem more acutely aware than normal right now about the underrepresentation in politics," he said. That frustration could be tied to President Donald Trump's policies and rhetoric about women, Miller said. Women are also feeling threatened by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the U.S. Supreme Court, which could put abortion rights in jeopardy, Kelly said. "And so I think what you're seeing — and this is all over the country and all over Kansas — they're sick and tired of not being heard, so they're out there making their voices heard," she said. Women make up 28 percent of the Kansas Legislature, a slightly lower percentage than in the early 1990s. Kansas hasn't had a female statewide elected official since January 2015, when Republican Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger retired.

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New Kansas Law Mandates Safe Driving Around Garbage Trucks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has joined 18 other states in adopting a law requiring motorists to use caution around garbage trucks by making driver carelessness a fineable offense. A ticket for what is now known as "unlawful passing of a waste collection vehicle" will cost an offender $45 starting July 1, 2019. Until then, police will hand out warnings. The Kansas law took effect this month. Motorists are required to treat stopped garbage trucks with "due caution," meaning they must slow down when nearing the truck and give it space when passing. Exactly what constitutes "due caution" will depend on the given circumstances and the judgment of the enforcing police officer. The same standards are in place for emergency vehicles. "Drivers have a habit of not always paying attention, of getting distracted and running into the back of the vehicles," said Brandon Wright, communications director for the National Waste and Recycling Association. Garbage collection is the fifth most hazardous civilian job in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and motorists are a big reason. Besides inattentive driving, drivers often try to zip around trucks too quickly or squeeze by them when there's not enough room, all of which can end badly for the workers, Wright said. "You just hate to see someone get hit beside one of those big old trucks," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Petersen, a Wichita Republican. "There's not much between them and the traffic. It's not pretty." His committee heard testimony from nearly a dozen waste industry employees and experts supporting the law, which convinced members of the need, he said. Kansas traffic laws generally require drivers to adjust their speed and tactics for road conditions and weather to remain safe. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1970 that a driver must exercise "ordinary care and caution" to avoid accidents. In the case of the new law, drivers are likely to get pulled over if they "buzz right by at their normal speed" when a garbage truck is present, said state House Transportation Committee Chairman Richard Proehl, a Parsons Republican.

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Deal Resolves Water Use Dispute Between Kansas, Colorado

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Colorado has agreed to pay Kansas $2 million in a settlement resolving claims regarding Colorado's past use of water under the Republican River Compact. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a news release Friday that the settlement is an investment in the basin to ensure a better future for Kansas water users. The Republican River Compact allocates the waters of the basins between the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. Under the provisions of the settlement , Kansas agreed to pursue "a good faith effort" to spend the money Colorado paid for the benefit of the South Fork of the Republican River Basin within Kansas. Colorado also agreed to pursue an effort to spend an additional $2 million by 2027 in the basin within Colorado.

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Kansas Appeals Court Strikes Down 2013 Workers Comp Change 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has struck down as unconstitutional a 2013 change in the state's workers' compensation law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a three-judge panel ruled Friday that the change approved by the Legislature in 2013 too severely limits an injured worker's right to obtain a legal remedy for an injury. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office did not immediately say whether it plans to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. The case involved Howard Johnson III, who injured his back while working at U.S. Food Service in 2015. His injury occurred after the change took effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The revised law used a version of an American Medical Association guide which greatly reduced the amount of settlements workers could be awarded.

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Woman Arrested After Car Sinks in River with 2 Kids Aboard

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a car plunged into the Kansas River and the body of her 5-year-old daughter was pulled from the water. The Lawrence police department says Scharron Renea Dingledine of Columbia, Missouri, was arrested on a first degree murder charge related to the girl's death. She also faces an attempted murder charge stemming from critical injuries to her 1-year-old son, who remains hospitalized. Police say the children were passengers in the vehicle that sunk Friday afternoon in the river in downtown Lawrence. The toddler and the mother were rescued. The vehicle was pulled from the river by search and recovery crews.

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Prosecutor: No Charges Filed in 'Stand Your Ground' Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Lawrence man won't be prosecuted for a fatal shooting incident on his porch because his actions were protected under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports no charges will be filed against 44-year-old Robert Patrick in connection with the April 4 shooting that killed 32-year-old Trevor Mohawk of Lawrence. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said in a press release Patrick shot Mohawk five times in the lower torso after he came onto Patrick's porch in Lawrence. A struggle ensued after Patrick asked Mohawk to leave, leaving Patrick with black eyes and multiple bruises and abrasions. Patrick shot Mohawk during the struggle.

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Kansas Democrats Try to End Losing Streak with Rural Appeal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats are riding an eight-year losing streak in statewide elections, and the pressure to break it has intensified a debate within the party over how to pull more votes from Republican-leaning rural areas to help win the governor's race this year. Democrats nationally are hoping that dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump fuels victories in congressional races. In Kansas, they're hoping to capitalize on ex-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's unpopularity when he left office in January, the result of years of budget problems following income tax cuts that were ultimately rolled back. But they acknowledge that their lack of appeal outside urban and suburban neighborhoods is a problem. In the 2014 governor's race, Democrat Paul Davis prevailed in both the eastern third of the state and its five most populous counties. But Republican Gov. Sam Brownback narrowly won re-election by winning rural counties, particularly in western Kansas — 30 of them with more than two-thirds of the vote. To remedy that, the party has hired organizers for rural northwestern and southwestern Kansas and has held forums for governor candidates in Dodge City and Garden City. The major candidates have hit dozens of events in the western half of the state since the start of the year. Democrats have their first contested primary for governor since 1998, with state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty and ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer as the leading contenders in Tuesday's election.

"In some of these counties, we need to do much, much better," said Chris Reeves, a Kansas City-area activist and member of the Democratic National Committee who also owns a home in western Kansas. "This is the year where we really should have a really good shot at some of these races."

The challenge is that Democrats don't agree on how to do better in rural Kansas. Former Democratic State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, from Greensburg, said Democrats in Kansas have suffered as the party has moved further left on issues such as abortion. McKinney, a former Kansas House minority leader who had an anti-abortion voting record as a legislator, said the shift alienated voters who otherwise identified with Democrats on wages and education. Kelly and Svaty both consistently supported gun-rights measures as legislators, though Kelly started breaking with it in recent years and both are promising to pursue gun-control measures if elected. Svaty also had an anti-abortion voting record as a legislator but now downplays it. Svaty has repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump's trade policies, arguing that a governor must be visible on the issue. In July, Kelly outlined a "rural prosperity" plan that includes tax credits for housing in small towns, support for rural groceries and a 10-year road-improvement program. The candidates are visiting the western half of the state regularly. Brewer has made at least 18 campaign stops since the start of the year, and Kelly and Svaty's campaigns said they've had 28 events each — almost one a week. Svaty has raised the issue of appealing to rural Kansas most directly. He is from Ellsworth, about 200 miles west of Kansas City and formerly represented a heavily Republican district in the Kansas House from 2003 to 2009. He argues that the Kansas Democratic Party has relied too heavily in recent years on drawing votes from the state's five most populous counties — two in Kansas City and those containing Topeka, Wichita and Lawrence — that contain 53 percent of the state's voters.

"I have made it very clear to them that we will shift away from this five-county strategy and push to be a statewide party," Svaty said.

Kelly credits her willingness to campaign in the rural parts of her Topeka-area district with her success. She said she initially was advised against spending time in Wabaunsee County, population just over 7,000 in the 2010 census, in her first race in 2004 and ignored that counsel. She won by 98 votes out of nearly 31,000 cast. Brewer has said he can appeal to Republican voters, but he's most frequently stressed his ability to win two terms in a city with thousands of conservative voters. Democrats face a lingering question of whether Republicans' successes were a reaction to former President Barack Obama and the party's 2016 presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, or a long-term shift to the right in Kansas politics.

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Holly Teeter Confirmed as Federal Judge in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has confirmed the newest federal district court judge in Kansas. Thirty-eight-year-old Holly Teeter's nomination was confirmed on Wednesday. Her nomination was delayed last year when a majority of the American Bar Association's ratings committee rated her as unqualified because she had been practicing law for only 11.5 years, shy of the ABA's minimum 12 years of experience to be considered qualified. President Donald Trump resubmitted her nomination in January. Teeter, of Lenexa, graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law. She was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri when she was nominated for the judgeship. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Teeter will replace Judge Kathryn Vratil who retired from the district court bench in Topeka in 2014.

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Death Sentence Sought in Overland Park Woman's Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County prosecutors say they will seek a death sentence for a 24-year-old man charged with raping and killing an Overland Park woman. Korrey Rinke is charged with capital murder in the August 2016 killing of 46-year-old Julianna Pappas. The Kansas City Star reports Rinke is accused of raping Pappas, beating her to death and leaving her body in a wooded area. Rinke was arraigned on rape and capital murder charges Thursday afternoon in Johnson County District Court. His attorneys entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

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Software in Sedgwick County's New Voting Machines Causing Confusion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A software design issue with Sedgwick County's new voting machines is confusing some early voters. The Wichita Eagle reports that not all the candidates' names appear on the first screen of the gubernatorial race. To see all the names, a voter has to touch "more" at the bottom of the screen to open another page with the rest of the candidates. The main reason is there are so many candidates running for governor. State law also requires each ballot line to include the names of the candidate and running mate and the cities where they live. The machine can only handle four candidates per page. Whose names a voter sees on the opening page depends on where they live because the order is changed at random from precinct to precinct.

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Possible Theft Reported at Emporia Women's Shelter

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia police are investigating the theft of more than $51,000 from a women's shelter. Police Captain David DeVries confirmed that the Plumb Place reported a possible theft and an investigation was underway but provided no further information. The Emporia Gazette reports a former staff member at the Plumb Place is the focus of the investigation. That staff member has resigned. A board member initially requested the possible discrepancy last year and the organization's board requested a four-year audit. The results of the audit are expected in the next few weeks. Earlier this year the United Way of the Flint Hills stopped funding Plumb Place because of the alleged theft. The shelter's funding was restored at a meeting on Wednesday but won't be released until more requirements have been met.

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Bond Reduced for Kansas Mother Charged in Child's Death

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A judge has reduced the bond for a 26-year-old Kansas woman charged in the death of her young daughter. Shelby Johnson, of Oxford, is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, child abuse and aggravated child endangerment in the death of 7-month-old Jesslinn Hulett. During a court appearance Thursday, Johnson's bond was lowered from $250,000 to $100,000. KAKE-TV reports that Johnson's attorney asked for the bond reduction, saying Johnson has no prior criminal history and is not a flight risk. Johnson is also 26 weeks pregnant. A criminal complaint filed last week accuses Johnson of beating and shaking Jesslinn, causing injuries consistent with blunt force trauma. The girl's father took her to a hospital in Sumner County April 1. She died at a Wichita hospital four days later.
 

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