On August 2, Kansas primary voters defeated a constitutional amendment aimed at overturning a pro-choice State Supreme Court decision. The result wasn’t close: “No” won by a 59-41 margin (or by 165,000 votes), well over the 10 percent margin usually deemed a landslide. While the big win for “no” was impressive and surprising, it was far from inscrutable; it was caused by the high turnout from Democrats, independents, and the sizable ranks (38 percent, according to a recent national Pew survey) of pro-choice Republicans who were galvanized by the sudden abolition of federal constitutional abortion rights by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24.
But as we have learned recently, a faction of right-wing political activists has decided that undermining faith in democratic elections is an effective way to undermine the elections themselves and their consequences. It was appropriate, then, that a self-appointed defender of “election integrity” named Melissa Leavitt and the longtime Republican fringe character and anti-abortion crusader Mark Gietzen got together to force a hand recount of votes on the abortion referendum in nine Kansas counties, including Johnson and Sedgwick, the two largest in the state. They would have preferred a statewide recount, but under a provision of Kansas election law, those who demand a recount without clear evidence of wrongdoing have to bear the cost of the procedure, and Gietzen’s credit cards maxed out at the roughly $120,000 necessary for a nine-county recount.
The two election vigilantes offered zero proof of irregularities in the August 2 vote, though Gietzen pointed to an unrelated thumb-drive malfunction in a local contest in a teeny-tiny county as somehow illustrative of deeper problems. He also demanded a refund for the portion of the recall conducted in Sedgwick County because the procedure was briefly delayed by a ballot-sorting error that had nothing to do with the actual results.
In the end, the hand recount reduced the “no” side’s 165,000-vote margin by exactly 93 votes, mostly as a result of machines counting a handful of ballots with inadequately filled-in ovals. For election workers fresh from a heavy-duty primary and focused on getting ready for the November election, the whole recount exercise was a huge waste of time, as the Associated Press reported: “‘This is almost like doing an Ironman triathlon and having to add on another marathon at the end,’ said Fred Sherman, the county’s Election Commissioner. ‘So it is quite a gargantuan process.’”
Gietzen is now going to court to demand a new statewide recount citing the same old excuses. One of Leavitt’s allies, Tatum Lee-Hahn, an election-denying state legislator who badly lost her own August 2 primary, seemed to be calling for spiritual warfare to overturn every unpleasant result, which she linked to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago:
“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.
The thing to understand here, because we are going to see more and more of it going forward, is that unsubstantiated mistrust of elections is becoming an excuse for even more baseless challenging of elections. And it all comes down to people who don’t like the results of elections rejecting them as illegitimate. The cycle of disinformation and mistrust shows no signs of slowing down. A growing number of people on the right think that if Kansas voters defy the will of God by defending abortion rights, or if Arizona voters betray their country by choosing Joe Biden over Donald Trump as president, something must be terribly, unacceptably wrong.
More on life after roe
- Dianne Feinstein, the Institutionalist
- The Language of Abortion Politics Is Evolving Again
- Trump Isn’t Moderating on Abortion, He’s Just Shifting Tactics