Kansas primary election officially over, despite anti-abortion activist vowing, 'I'm not done yet'
The Kansas primary election is officially over with results certified after historic voter turnout overwhelmingly defeated a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution.
"It is officially over, said and done," Secretary of State Scott Schwab said of the 2022 primary election.
While the weeks preceding an election are typically contentious, it came as a surprise to many that the weeks following the Aug. 2 primary were rife with electoral confusion. Two election security doubters pursued a hand recount of the so-called Value Them Both amendment, despite an insurmountable margin of victory.
After nearly $120,000 spent, only a miniscule fraction of votes changed.
Anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen, of Wichita, footed the bill with credit cards.
"A man put it on his credit card — he was so deceived he put $118,000 of unsecured debt that he has to pay," Schwab said. "My heart feels bad for a person that was manipulated into doing that. But you know, you got to pay for the results of your decisions."
Gietzen responded that "Schwab has to pay for the results of his decisions, too" for his contention that Schwab broke election law.
More: Did Kansas abortion amendment recount follow legal guidelines? Chaos may lead to legislative fix.
'I'm not done yet'
The State Board of Canvassers met Thursday afternoon in Topeka, nearly a full month after the Aug. 2 primary election.
Schwab, a Republican, led the meeting. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who are running against each other in the general election, are both members of the canvassing board.
The board certified the election results with no objections.
"I'm not done yet," Gietzen told The Capital-Journal when a reporter broke the news to him that the election had been certified. He contends that "the election is a non-certifiable if you believe in the rule of law."
He plans to go door-to-door once he gets a list of registered voters to "see how many of these people are actual people."
"If they've certified today, then that's history," he said. "But it's something that can be undone, and I'll be looking to the courts to do that."
He has two ongoing lawsuits in Sedgwick County District Court. One lawsuit focused on ballot drop boxes was tossed out in a matter of minutes, but he is appealing it.
"The people who are willing to believe conspiracy theories about people trying to control them are then more than willing to be controlled by the people pushing the conspiracy theory," Schwab said. "We have shown that was just a false theory and that Kansas gets it right."
More: In bizarre move, recount requested in Kansas abortion amendment. What does it mean?
Election conspiracies divide GOP
Election conspiracy theories have sown division among Republicans. While Schwab won his own reelection primary last month, his opponent, Mike Brown, garnered 45% of votes with a campaign largely predicated on questioning the integrity of the election system.
Brown is now floating a campaign to chair the Kansas Republican Party.
Top Republicans and the coalition supporting the anti-abortion amendment didn't question the integrity of the election, instead blaming out-of-state fundraising and the media for what they contend was confusion among voters.
But the election denier pressed on. The weeks following Election Day were marked by a tumultuous and procedurally messy hand recount effort encompassing most of the largest counties.
The amendment would have stripped the right to an abortion from the Kansas Constitution, freeing conservative Republicans to pursue further restrictions or a ban on the procedure.
Gietzen called fellow Republicans "weak-kneed" for supporting certification.
"I don't consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist or someone who would follow a conspiracy theory of any sort," Gietzen said, disputing that Kansas got the election right.
More: Driven by abortion politics, Kansas primary election voters turned out in high numbers
Election director Bryan Caskey called the 2022 primary "historic."
He noted nearly 940,000 people cast a ballot — more than 400,000 votes higher than the previous record for a primary, set in 1996. Voter turnout was 48%, also surpassing the 30-year high of 39% in 1996.
Caskey said a gubernatorial year general election typically sees 50% to 55% turnout. The raw vote total, though, exceeded most vote totals in previous gubernatorial general elections of the past 20 years.
The 1.95 million voters registered was the most heading into a primary.
Kansas has hand-count audit requirements to verify the results of voting equipment.
"At the conclusion of the audit, every single county was able to account for every single ballot in every single race," Caskey said.
An automatic post-election audit of 10% of precincts in the tight GOP treasurer's race also verified that result. Recounts in the treasurer's race, a House race and the ballot question also confirmed those results.
More: Rep. Steven Johnson declares victory in Republican treasurer primary, though recount still looms
The recounts combined to have nearly 574,000 votes recounted by hand. The end result was 66 votes changed.
They were the first recounts of statewide elections in Kansas history, according to Schwab's office.
"The 2022 primary election was the most scrutinized election in our state's history with post-election audits and recounts conducted by hand," Caskey said. "And the 2022 primary election was the largest in terms of number of registered voters in our state's history by a substantial margin."
Shawnee County had a handful of votes change in its recount, which officials said were due to voter error and not the machines. Examples included voters circling the word "yes" or "no" on their ballot instead of coloring in the oval, as well as using pencils instead of pens.
With the hand recount, election workers were able to count those ballots by judging voter intent.
Schwab said the results "show we can increase election security without compromising voter turnout."
Schwab suggested that the Legislature make statutes on various post-election deadlines clearer.
"There will be people, just like they're still talking about 2020 election, there'll be people talking about the 2022 election," Schwab said. "And, you know, there's just nothing you can do. I mean, it has been proven beyond any doubt that we got the election right and there is no question that the winners won and the losers lost."
More: Kansas abortion amendment recount wraps up. After $119,000 spent, 63 votes changed.
Jason Tidd is a statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Tidd.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas certified 2022 primary election defeat of anti-abortion vote