Kansas woman says effort to recount abortion vote depends on ‘God moving in people’s lives’

By: - August 13, 2022 9:21 am
Melissa Leavitt in a TikTok video explains her reasoning for seeking a hand recount in the vote on a constitutional amendment. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from TikTok)

Melissa Leavitt in a TikTok video explains her reasoning for seeking a hand recount in the vote on a constitutional amendment. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from TikTok)

TOPEKA — Melissa Leavitt says her ability to raise money to pay for a statewide hand recount of votes on the constitutional amendment on abortion rights will “have a lot to do with God moving in people’s lives.”

Leavitt ordered the recount before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline after launching an online fundraiser. By Saturday evening, she had raised about $5,000 toward a $230,000 goal. However, the Kansas City Star reported she had posted a $200,000 bond with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Candidates also requested recounts in the state treasurer’s race, where the current lead for the GOP nomination is 409 votes, and a legislative race in west Kansas.

Preliminary results from the Aug. 2 election show more than 920,000 Kansans voted on the constitutional amendment, which would have removed the right to reproductive health care in Kansas and given the Legislature the authority to fully ban abortion without exceptions. Voters rejected the amendment by a 59-41 margin with 165,389 more “no” votes than “yes” votes.

The Associated Press identified Leavitt as a resident of Colby in western Kansas. Leavitt said in online posts that she is an advocate for election integrity.

“I have no idea if 165,000 votes can be swung in a state, but I don’t think it’s impossible,” she said in a TikTok video posted early Saturday. “However, the data we get from doing a statewide hand count would tell us a lot.”

Leavitt said the data from a hand recount will call attention to whether the error rates of machines used in Kansas are meeting federal standards.

“I’m just gonna to say the next 48 hours is gonna have a lot to do with God moving in people’s lives,” Leavitt said in the TikTok video. “And if it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. But I’m praying. I’m praying that we get it.”

The Secretary of State’s Office has said the elections in Kansas are accurate and secure. Audits so far have discovered normal irregularities, the state elections director said in a briefing with reporters.

Friday was the deadline for requesting a recount, but three of the four largest counties in Kansas have yet to certify their votes, with about 20,000 provisional ballots yet to be reviewed. Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties will canvass on Monday.

The person who requests a recount is responsible for the cost, which is determined by election officials in each county.

State Sen. Caryn Tyson, who trails state Rep. Steven Johnson by a slim margin in the GOP primary for state treasurer, said in a news release that she had ordered a hand recount. She identified 55 rural counties to be recounted by hand for an estimated cost of nearly $42,000.

Tyson said the recount is “based on discrepancies in audit results, audit results that were not made available, malfunction of voting equipment, and/or incorrect ballot rotation.”

The Secretary of State’s Office said Rep. Tatum Lee-Hahn, a Republican from Ness City, also requested a hand recount for the nine counties in her district.

Rep. Jim Minnix, R-Scott City, defeated Lee-Hahn by a vote total of 4,060 to 2,771. The two incumbents were moved into the same district as part of the redistricting process earlier this year.

Lee-Hahn, who promotes false information about voter fraud, said in a post on her campaign’s Facebook page: “We are in a war, my friends. The Word and Worship is our warfare!”

She also applauded Leavitt’s request for a recount on the abortion amendment.

“Are we honestly so naive to think the entire nation which was watching this amendment vote and covered by every national news media outlet last week, did not have the potential to be fraudulent based on what we’ve seen the deep state do to President Trump just this week?” Lee-Hahn said on her campaign’s Facebook page.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.