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Decisive Vote Protecting Abortion Rights In Kansas Confirmed In Recount


OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A decisive statewide vote in favor of abortion rights in traditionally conservative Kansas was confirmed with a partial hand recount, with fewer than 100 votes changing after the last county reported results Sunday.

Nine of the state’s 105 counties recounted their votes on the request of Melissa Leavitt, who has pushed for tighter election laws. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Mark Gietzen, is covering many of the costs. Gietzen acknowledged in an interview that it was unlikely to vary the end result.

A no vote within the referendum signaled a desire to maintain existing abortion protections and a yes vote was for allowing the Legislature to tighten restrictions or ban abortion. After the recounts, “no” votes lost 87 votes and “yes” gained 6 votes.

Eight of the counties reported their results by the state’s Saturday deadline, but Sedgwick County delayed releasing its final count until Sunday because spokeswoman Nicole Gibbs said a number of the ballots weren’t separated into the proper precincts in the course of the initial recount and needed to be resorted Saturday. She said the variety of votes forged overall didn’t change.

A bigger than expected turnout of voters on Aug. 2 rejected a ballot measure that will have removed protections for abortion rights from the Kansas Structure and given to the Legislature the appropriate to further restrict or ban abortion. It failed by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes statewide.

The vote drew broad attention since it was the primary state referendum on abortion because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Gietzen, of Wichita, and Leavitt, of Colby, in far northwestern Kansas, have each suggested there may need been problems without pointing to many examples.

Recounts increasingly are tools to encourage supporters of a candidate or cause to imagine an election was stolen somewhat than lost. A wave of candidates who’ve echoed former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged have called for recounts after losing their very own Republican primaries.

Kansas law requires a recount if those that ask for it prove they will cover the counties’ costs. The counties pay provided that the end result changes.

Leavitt and Gietzen provided bank cards to pay for the nearly $120,000 cost, in keeping with the secretary of state’s office. Leavitt has a web based fundraising page. Gietzen also said he’s getting donations from a network built over three many years within the anti-abortion movement.

Gietzen said Sunday he doesn’t accept the outcomes of the Sedgwick County recount due to discrepancy concerning the way the ballots were sorted and since a number of the recount happened Saturday without outside observers present to look at.

“We still don’t know what happened in Sedgwick County. I won’t pay for Sedgwick County,” he said.

He said he’s also concerned concerning the results statewide due to a report out of Cherokee county in southeast Kansas concerning the results of 1 county election being transposed between two candidates when the outcomes were transferred on a thumb drive from one voting machine to a tabulating machine.

Gietzen said he plans to file a lawsuit Monday in search of a full statewide recall.

Gietzen said he won’t publicly report the names of personal donors helping him finance the recount, though a state ethics official says it’s required. Gietzen, who leads a small GOP group, the Kansas Republican Assembly, argues that he’s not campaigning for the anti-abortion measure but is as an alternative promoting election integrity.

Votes were recounted in Douglas County, home to the University of Kansas’ primary campus; Johnson County, in suburban Kansas City; Sedgwick County, home to Wichita, Shawnee County, home to Topeka; and Crawford, Harvey, Jefferson, Lyon and Thomas counties. Abortion opponents lost all of those counties except Thomas.

In Jefferson County, the margin remained the identical, with the pro- and anti-amendment totals declining by 4 votes each. Linda Buttron, the county clerk, blamed the change on things like ovals not being darkened and “the challenges of hand counting ballots.”

In Lyon County, the anti-amendment group lost a vote. County Clerk and Election Officer Tammy Vopat said she wasn’t sure the rationale. But she noted: “You have got to think about human error.”

Johnson County, probably the most populous in Kansas, faced the most important recounting challenge since it had probably the most ballots. It pulled in staff from different departments to assist. The sorting process took so long that the actual counting didn’t begin until Thursday afternoon.

“This is nearly like doing an Ironman triathlon and having so as to add on one other marathon at the tip,” said Fred Sherman, the county’s Election Commissioner. “So it is sort of a gargantuan process.”

Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Josh Funk contributed to this report from Omaha, Nebraska.

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