Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment earlier this month that sought to allow stricter abortion laws, a partial hand recount affirmed Sunday. The recount in nine counties did result in the pro-amendment side gaining six votes and the antiabortion side losing 87, out of 922,000 votes cast, but it did not change the lopsided 18 percentage point margin of defeat for the amendment.
The referendum was closely watched because it was the first time abortion rights were put before voters after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the national right to abortion in June. Turnout was an unexpectedly high 48 percent.
The recount "never had any chance of changing the outcome but was sought by an election denier and anti-abortion activist advancing baseless allegations of fraud," The Wichita Eagle reports. It was requested by Melissa Leavitt, who has espoused election conspiracy theories, and funded largely by Mark Gietzen, a longtime Wichita anti-abortion activist and head of a hard-right Republican offshoot, the Kansas Republican Assembly.
Leavitt and Gietzen had originally sought a full statewide recount, but they put forward nearly $120,000 of the $230,000 estimated cost and amended their request to include just nine counties. Those counties include the two largest in Kansas — Johnson (suburban Kansas City) and Sedgwick (Wichita). Eight of the nine counties voted against the amendment.
Kansas law requires people requesting a recount to prove they can pay if the outcome doesn't change, in which case the county pays, and Gietzen posted the required bonds using a Kansas Republican Assembly credit card and money from his retirement account, the Eagle reports. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R) allowed him to post the bond on Aug. 15, not the recount deadline of Aug. 12, citing ambiguities in state law. Gietzen said Sunday he won't pay for the recount in Sedgwick County because it completed its recount Sunday, not the Saturday deadline.