Kansas Abortion Recount Affirms Will of the Voters

On August 22 2022, a post to Reddit’s r/politics (and r/all) said that a Kansas abortion referendum recount reaffirmed the initial tally — indicating that voters in Kansas continue to overwhelmingly favor legal access to abortion in the state:

That post referenced an August 2 2022 Kansas ballot referendum presented to voters in the course of the state’s primary elections. Ahead of the referendum (the first of its sort after the June 24 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade), anti-abortion groups did their best to exacerbate confusion over the meaning of a “yes” or “no” vote on abortion rights:

Fact Check

Claim: An August 2022 recount reaffirmed that Kansas voters overwhelmingly chose to keep abortion legal.

Description: In a referendum held during the state’s primary elections, Kansas voters overwhelmingly chose to keep abortion legal. A recount of the votes was initiated by an anti-abortion activist, but the recount confirmed the initial outcome with only minimal changes to the numbers.


Rating Explanation: The recount’s results have been confirmed by multiple reliable sources, showing that collectively, Kansas voters continue to favor legal access to abortion.

On August 15 and 16 2022, several news organizations reported that West Virginia’s governor sought a way around a similar abortion referendum in the state, purportedly out of fear the outcome would match the one in Kansas:

The August 22 2022 r/politics thread linked to an Associated Press article published on the same day. It reported that the effort was supported by an anti-abortion activist and conspiracist, and that the recount resulted in a broader spread in favor of abortion rights:

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 at the request of Melissa Leavitt, who has pushed for tighter election laws. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Mark Gietzen, is covering most of the costs. Gietzen acknowledged in an interview that it was unlikely to change the outcome.

A no vote in the referendum signaled a desire to keep 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 … A larger than expected turnout of voters on Aug. 2 [2022] rejected a ballot measure that would have removed protections for abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution and given to the Legislature the right to further restrict or ban abortion. It failed by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes statewide.

An August 22 2022 article from a local newspaper covered the recount effort in a similar fashion, explaining:

After five days, multiple credit cards, $119,000 and no shortage of confusion, a hand recount of the Kansas abortion amendment vote in nine counties changed the ultimate margin of the outcome by only 63 votes, after its sound defeat on Aug. 2 [2022].

The recount, requested by Melissa Leavitt, a Colby resident who has trafficked in election conspiracy theories, and Mark Gietzen, a Wichita anti-abortion activist, wasn’t expected to meaningfully change the results.

The “no” vote side lost 57 votes overall, while the “yes” votes gained only six votes. That’s a small fraction of the over 922,000 Kansans who voted on the amendment.

All in all, Leavitt and Gietzen paid $119,000, or about $1,888 per vote changed, in their bid to erase a 165,000-plus vote deficit from the election night totals.

That reporting noted that all new votes came from “instances of voter error, such as individuals who didn’t follow instructions in marking the ballot.” An August 22 2022 Kansas.com article reported that Gietzen sought a third count, in search of “any opening” to overturn the results:

But Mark Gietzen, a Wichita anti-abortion activist who is spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about voting fraud and helped pay for the recount, said he plans to refuse to pay an estimated $31,800 for the Sedgwick County recount unless the ballots are counted for a third time. He said he planned to sue the secretary of state on Monday [August 22 2022], seeking a full hand recount of every race in the state in the August [2022] primary. “In Sedgwick County, they need to do Value Them Both again, because that was totally screwed up,” Gietzen said Sunday [August 21 2022] after the canvass board certified the results.

Another recount would likely end with the same result. But Gietzen has indicated he is looking for any opening to overturn the election.

Another August 22 2022 article (KansasCity.com’s “Kansas recount confirms landslide win for abortion rights, but highlights risk to democracy”) focused on the implications of recounting ballots for a referendum with such a wide margin:

Kansas reaffirmed its landslide vote to uphold abortion rights after election officials on Sunday [August 21 2022] finished a recount that 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 exercise instead delivered a second victory for opponents of an amendment that would have stripped abortion rights from the state constitution.

But the recount of such a lopsided vote, rather than building credibility in the results, risks undermining trust in elections because the process provided fringe, diehard amendment supporters an opportunity to attempt to create an aura of uncertainty surrounding the vote when, in fact, none ever existed.

On August 22 2022, several outlets reported that a recount of the Kansas abortion referendum reconfirmed the initial outcome — the only votes gained in the effort were in favor of abortion. Those results did appear to surprise any of the involved parties. KansasCity.com’s coverage of the recount and outcome observed that efforts of that sort risked “undermining trust in elections,” and catered to baseless assertions of election fraud. As of August 21 2022, an anti-abortion activist displeased with the outcome sought a third count of ballots.