Election official says recount of Kansas abortion amendment vote proves election integrity

By: - August 22, 2022 1:40 pm
The Kansas constitutional amendment ballot question appears on a touch screen at a voting booth on July 29, 2022, at the Shawnee County Elections Office. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

The Kansas constitutional amendment ballot question appears on a touch screen at a voting booth on July 29, 2022, at the Shawnee County Elections Office. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Secretary of State Scott Schwab says the result of a nine-county hand recount of ballots from the Aug. 2 election shows there is no systemic election fraud in Kansas.

The weeklong recount produced little change in vote totals showing Kansans overwhelming rejected a constitutional amendment on abortion. After exhausted election workers took a look at 556,364 ballots, the margin of rejection narrowed by 63 votes.

Colby resident Melissa Leavitt requested the recount, claiming vague problems with election integrity. She paid $119,000 toward the cost of the recount, combining money from her credit cards with an online fundraiser and support from Wichita anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen.

The proposed constitutional amendment would have taken away the right to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas, overturning a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that protected abortion rights in Kansas after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Instead of failing by 165,389 votes, the recount showed the amendment failed by 165,326 votes.

“The results of this unprecedented recount of more than half the ballots cast in the 2022 Kansas primary election, with less than 2/100ths of a percent difference in the county canvasses and the recount process, proves once and for all that there is no systemic election fraud in our state’s election process,” Schwab said. “Kansans should be confident that these results put to rest the unfounded claims of election fraud in our state and know that our elections are secure and that their vote counted.”

Two other recounts also affirmed the results of GOP contests for state treasurer and a state House district.

Schwab’s office said hand recounts typically result in minor discrepancies. They can be the result of human error, or a ballot marked in a way that a machine couldn’t read.

Schwab praised the work of election officials and volunteers who “worked tirelessly to administer a secure election and complete the recount requests.”

“I have immense gratitude for their hard work and commitment to a safe and secure election process,” Schwab said.

Leavitt has raised $54,000 through GiveSendGo, a Christian-themed fundraising platform. More than 800 people donated, and more than 600 offered prayers, through the site.

In an interview Saturday with a GiveSendGo representative for Gab TV, Leavitt described herself as “an election integrity researcher.”

“When you’re talking about voting, you know, it’s vital that everything is fair, and free and it’s correct,” Leavitt said. “And so this is kind of a point where we can dig in, and it’s our right to ask for it.”

She also provided updates on her TikTok account while attending MyPillow mogul Mike Lindell’s “Moment of Truth Summit” in Springfield, Missouri, over the weekend.

The Secretary of State’s Office has pointed to the recount as a reason for not yet certifying a petition filed by Dennis Pyle, who hopes to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate for governor. He turned in nearly 9,000 signatures, which county election officials will have to review.

Pyle has repeatedly expressed frustration with the delay, accusing Schwab of helping Republicans who would prefer he stay off the ballot. Pyle is a conservative who is running because he thinks the Republican candidate, Derek Schmidt, is too liberal. Republicans fear his entry into the race will benefit Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

“Partisan politics is already backing up my ballot access, not to mention the campaign, and participation in events,” Pyle said. “A lot of folks in Kansas are already suspicious that Secretary Schwab is responsible for giving us dishonest elections. Keeping me off the ballot and disrupting the campaign by purposely holding up the certification of my petition has only made their suspicions stronger.”

Correction: The margin in the constitutional amendment narrowed by 63 votes. An earlier version of this story incorrectly calculated the change.

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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.