Kansas on Tuesday began a partial manual recount of this month’s crucial statewide vote in favor of abortion rights, a move forced by two Republican activists, though the margin was so wide that the recount won’t change the result.
Nine of the state’s 105 counties are conducting the recount at the request of Melissa Leavitt of Colby in far northwest Kansas, who has been pushing for stricter election laws. A longtime anti-abortion advocate, Wichita’s Mark Gietzen, is paying most of the cost.
A larger-than-expected turnout on Aug. 2 rejected a ballot measure that would have removed abortion protections from the Kansas Constitution and given the legislature the power to further restrict or ban abortion. It failed nationally by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes.
It drew widespread attention because it was the first state referendum on abortion since the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade lifted in June.
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WHY COUNT IF IT WILL NOT CHANGE THE RESULT?
Gietzen and Leavitt have both suggested that there may have been problems without pointing to actual examples or evidence. Gietzen admitted in an interview that he would be surprised if the Kansas recount changed the results, but that he would like to have “the system fixed.” He pointed to possible things that could have gone wrong, such as malicious software, inaccurate electoral rolls and violations of voting rights, although there is no evidence to back this up.
Recounts are increasingly tools to encourage or trick supporters of a candidate into believing that an election was stolen rather than lost. A wave of candidates who have repeated former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged have called for recounts after losing their own Republican primary.
In Nevada, attorney Joey Gilbert raised money to pay for a $190,000 recount that still showed he lost the GOP nomination for governor by 26,000 votes. In Colorado, district clerk Tina Peters raised $256,000 to pay for a recount that showed she had won a total of 13 votes in her bid for the party’s nomination for secretary of state, but still lost by more than 88,000 votes. Both candidates continued to claim they actually won the election, although recounts showed they were nowhere near it.
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The refusal by candidates or campaigns to believe they could ever be defeated in an election is a dangerous development for American democracy, said Tammy Patrick, a former Arizona elections official who is now a senior advisor to the Democracy Fund.
“What we’re seeing now is people just don’t believe they lost because they’re constantly being fed these lies about the legitimacy of the process,” Patrick said. The call for the count “keeps their base moving, motivating and donating,” she added.
Deb Otis of the nonprofit group Fair Vote wrote a report that found that statewide elections between 2000 and 2019 saw about two recounts per year, and only three saw the results change after the recounts introduced tiny but significant errors in of the original census had uncovered.
“Voters will start to lose track of when these claims are legitimate and when a state should pay for a recount,” Otis said.
Kansas law requires a recount if those requesting it show they can afford the counties’ costs. The districts only pay if the result changes.
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WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
Kansas law states that counties have five days after a request to complete a recount. The clock for the abortion measure recount began Monday, when the Kansas Secretary of State’s office concluded that Gietzen and Leavitt could foot the bill.
All nine counties are expected to be ready by Saturday. Four began telling Tuesday, and one of those, Lyon County, planned to be finished by the end of the day. The other five wanted to start on Wednesday.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?
Leavitt and Gietzen provided credit cards to pay for the nearly $120,000 cost, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Leavitt has an online fundraising page that has raised more than $47,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. Gietzen also said he receives donations from a network built over three decades in the anti-abortion movement, but declined to be more specific.
The two initially wanted the vote to be recounted in all 105 Kansas counties, but they couldn’t raise the $229,000 required. Gietzen said the nine counties were chosen partly based on their population and cost.
Votes are tallied in Douglas County, home of the main campus of the University of Kansas; Johnson County, in suburban Kansas City; Sedgwick County, home of Wichita; Shawnee County, home of Topeka; and the counties of Crawford, Harvey, Jefferson, Lyon and Thomas. Anti-abortionists lost all of those counties except Thomas.
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WHO IS BEHIND?
Gietzen was active in the anti-abortion movement and frequently protested outside a Wichita abortion clinic. He runs his own group, the Kansas Coalition for Life, which is separate from the larger and more influential Kansans for Life, who wield significant power in the Statehouse. He has pushed legislation to ban most abortions at around the sixth week of pregnancy. Kansas law doesn’t do that until week 22.
He also heads the Kansas Republican Assembly, which had some influence among GOP conservative activists more than a decade ago before they consolidated their hold on the state party organization. He retired from aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
He has repeatedly and unsuccessfully run for the state legislature and was an activist against cities adding fluoride to their drinking water, which Wichita opposed in 2012.
“He’s ready, right, he’s coming to the other side,” said former Republican state congressman John Whitmer, a Wichita radio talk show host. “There’s just not much wiggle room with Mark.”
Leavitt owns a hobby and craft store in Colby. She has questioned how Thomas County is handling its elections. She was a member of a local electoral advisory group.
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WHY DOESN’T THE RESULT CHANGE?
Voters in the nine counties cast approximately 59% of the more than 922,000 ballots for the Aug. 2 poll. They rejected the anti-abortion measure by 31 percentage points — well above the national total.
Recounts almost never reverse the outcome of elections, even in the closest races. Since the Florida recount for the 2000 presidential race, more than 30 US state elections have been the subject of recounts. The three who were overthrown were decided by hundreds of votes – not thousands.
The largest margin erased by a statewide recount was 261 votes in the 2004 Washington state gubernatorial election. There is no precedent in US history for a recount to reverse the outcome of an election started by more than 165,000 votes was decided.
Even some strong anti-abortion advocates see the recount as a waste of time and money. Whitmer said the money could be much better spent on GOP efforts to unseat Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly or on competitive House seats.
Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri, and Riccardi from Denver. Also involved were Margaret Stafford in Kansas City, Missouri and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington, DC
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/9064828/kansas-recount-abortion-referendum/ Kansas begins abortion referendum recount despite numerous “no” votes. Here’s why – National