In bizarre move, recount requested in Kansas abortion amendment. What does it mean?

·4 min read

A private citizen who has promoted election conspiracy theories has requested a hand recount of the defeated Kansas abortion constitution amendment, even though it will almost certainly not change the final result.

Meanwhile, in the hotly contested race for the Republican state treasurer nomination, Sen. Caryn Tyson is seeking a hand recount in about half of all counties, even though the final results in the race won't be known until Monday.

Elections director Bryan Caskey said officials are prepared to conduct the recount but noted he was confident in the results.

More: Kansas voters reject constitutional amendment in first post-Roe vote

Would abortion amendment recount change the result?

The most surprising news came in the constitutional amendment recount request, which was submitted by Melissa Leavitt, a Thomas County woman who has gained traction on social media and in the Statehouse for her baseless allegations about voter fraud, in Kansas and elsewhere.

Elections Director Bryan Caskey said his office was "satisfied" Leavitt could pay the bond amount but she won't be asked to do so until a final cost estimate is provided, something expected to occur either Friday evening or Saturday morning.

A private citizen who has promoted election conspiracy theories has requested a recount of the defeated Kansas abortion constitution amendment, even though it will almost certainly not change the final result.
A private citizen who has promoted election conspiracy theories has requested a recount of the defeated Kansas abortion constitution amendment, even though it will almost certainly not change the final result.

Under state law, a recount must begin within 24 hours and Caskey said counties were being asked to prepare to initiate the recount on Saturday but could be called off if Leavitt fails to pay the bond.

In Kansas, the individual or campaign requesting the recount must pay a bond to cover the total. Counties would pick up the tab only if the final result changes.

That is unlikely in this case. Election night results showed the "no" vote leading by over 165,000 votes, a margin that is unlikely to fluctuate much in a recount.

"Normally they reinforce the Election Day results," Caskey said. "We stand by the results as they are now and will do the recount."

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Reached by phone, Leavitt said she was at work and unavailable to talk but did confirm she hasn't yet paid a bond.

In a crowdfunding page posted on the website GiveSendGo, Leavitt said she learned that she had standing to request a recount only recently.

"Kansas simply does not do enough to put the minds of voters at rest with their % based random audit system," Leavitt wrote.

She pointed to an incident in Cherokee County, where vote totals for a pair of county commission candidates appeared to be swapped by accident. The result was uncovered and two hand recounts confirmed the race results and other results are also being recounted.

"I want to be as transparent as I can possibly be to the citizens of Cherokee County," county clerk Rebecca Brassart told KODE 12, a Joplin, Mo., television station. "And, I don’t want them to ever have to think that there’s anything to worry about when it comes to elections in this office."

The crowdfunding page reports having raised a little over $2,300, a fraction of what the final recount cost would total. It is unclear where the remainder of the money might come from.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in any Kansas race.

More: Democrats in Kansas scored a win on abortion amendment. Can they repeat in November?

"Every citizen has the right to request recounts, but our focus is now on moving the cause of life forward in Kansas—not looking back to August 2nd," Mackenzie Haddix, a spokesperson for the Value Them Both Coalition, the largest group supporting the amendment, said.

Ashley All, a spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the principal group opposing the amendment, said in a statement that the 165,000-plus vote margin was a decisive signal on the outcome of the race.

"They sent a clear message that they want to protect the constitutional rights of women to make private medical decisions for themselves," All said. "The results are clear."

Recount requested in razor-thin treasurer's race

As of Thursday afternoon, Tyson trailed her opponent, Rep. Steven Johnson by 409 votes.

But the state's three largest counties won't conduct their review of provisional ballots until Monday, with over 18,000 provisional ballots still yet to be adjudicated, though many of those belong to Democrat or unaffiliated voters.

Tyson said she believed it was still "anybody's race" and that the race would not be decided until next week anyway.

Still, she said her campaign requested a recount in any county where the election night tally and the results of a state-mandated audit of 10% of precincts differed, as well as counties with reports of equipment malfunctions.

The cost isn't yet clear, as the secretary of state's office is still generating a cost estimate.

Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at abahl@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas abortion amendment recount requested. Here is what it means.