Kansas plans to recount abortion amendment vote, despite proposal’s landslide defeat

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press file photo
·4 min read

Kansas election officials plan to conduct a statewide recount of the vote rejecting an amendment to remove abortion rights from the state constitution after a citizen posted a $200,000 bond for the recount, the state Secretary of State’s Office said.

Separately, state Sen. Caryn Tyson asked for a recount in 55 counties in the Republican race for Kansas Treasurer. Tyson, of Parker, currently trails state Rep. Steven Johnson, of Assaria, by 375 votes.

Melissa Leavitt, who has been fundraising for a recount based on vague suspicions of fraud, asked for the abortion amendment recount ahead of a 5 p.m. Friday deadline. A crowd-funding account set up by Leavitt showed less than $3,000 raised as of Friday afternoon, but Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, said Leavitt posted a $200,000 bond.

Kansas elections director Bryan Caskey plans to go along with the request, the Associated Press reported. Caskey said it would be the first recount of votes on a statewide ballot question in at least 30 years.

“Normally, they reinforce the Election Day results,” Caskey said about recounts. “We stand by the results and will do the recount.”

The final cost of the amendment recount may fluctuate, but is likely it be at least $200,000.

The amendment recount vote is extremely unlikely to alter the overall results. The amendment was defeated in a 59% to 41% landslide, according to unofficial results. “No” earned more than 165,000 more votes than “yes.”

Still, the recount effort underscores how unfounded fears of election fraud have taken hold with some in Kansas. In Johnson County, the state’s most populous, Sheriff Calvin Hayden has been conducting an election-related investigation for months, stoking suspicions of malfeasance without making detailed allegations.

“I have never done an audit like this but I believe that God has put us all here ‘for such a time as this’ to stand up and fight for our nation,” Leavitt wrote on her crowd-funding page. “We must do what we can before it’s too late.”

Leavitt declined to comment to reporters on Friday evening, the AP reported.

Many counties have already certified their election results, but others — including the state’s largest counties — are set to certify in the coming days. Johnson County is set to certify on Monday.

Under Kansas law, individuals requesting recounts must put up a bond to cover the cost of a recount. If the recount changes the outcome, the bond amount is returned to the requester. If the outcome is upheld, the state Secretary of State’s Office cashes the bond and disperses the funds to local jurisdictions.

Kansas’ rejection of the amendment reverberated nationwide and was taken as evidence of a backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide.

The Kansas Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature had placed an amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot called Value Them Both that would have given lawmakers sweeping power to restrict or ban abortion.

“Kansans voted overwhelmingly against this amendment. In fact, over 165,000 more Kansans opposed the amendment than supported it - that is significant. Kansans sent a clear message that we want to protect the constitutional rights of women to make private medical decisions for themselves,” said Ashley All, a spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main group opposing the amendment.

The Value Them Both Coalition, the main group supporting the amendment, didn’t endorse or oppose the recount request.

“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,” said Mackenzie Haddix, a spokesperson for the Value Them Both Coalition..

In the treasurer’s race, Tyson’s campaign said the counties selected for recounts were chosen “purely on discrepancies in audit results,” as well as audit results that were not made available, malfunctioning voting equipment and incorrect ballot rotation.

“The objective of these recounts are a fair and accurate election result,” a campaign statement said.

Whoever wins the primary will face incumbent Democratic Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the Nov. 8 election.

In a statement, Johnson said that as a financial adviser and a “numbers guy,” he recognizes “the importance of getting the numbers right.”

“The county clerks have done a great job making sure every vote counts,” Johnson said. “I look forward to returning the treasurer’s office to Republican leadership in November.”