Secretary of state sets deadline for Colby resident to secure the money
by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector
Topeka — Anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen expressed confidence Monday that $229,000 would be secured to finance a hand recount of more than 920,000 votes cast statewide on a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution restricting the right to abortion.
The Kansas secretary of state’s office set a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for delivery of cash, check or credit card with a sufficient line of credit to proceed with the county-by-county recount sought by supporters of the amendment disappointed by the initial outcome. The amendment fell short in the Aug. 2 primary election by a landslide margin of 59% to 41%.
Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life in Wichita and a prominent participant in anti-abortion protests in Wichita for more than 30 years, said he would pick up the torch of the recount effort launched by Colby resident Melissa Leavitt.
“There are an abundance of resources to get this done,” Gietzen said.
Gietzen also alleged — without evidence — the Kansas election earlier this month was distorted by “massive” election fraud through “ballot harvesting.” He asserted people illegally obtained, filled out and deposited ballots in drop boxes. He had filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County before the August primary in an attempt to stop use of drop boxes, but it was tossed by a judge.
Gietzen said the recount of votes on the amendment in all 105 counties would be conducted “unless we get screwed over by the secretary of state.”
Originally, Gietzen offered a credit card of a conservative political organization to leverage the recount. Leavitt later she was grateful Gietzen agreed to “put his home up for the recount,” but encouraged others to continue donating to the cause.
Leavitt informed the secretary of state’s office at 4 a.m. Monday that Gietzen’s assets would be sufficient to cover a recount.
In a setback for the recount campaign, however, Leavitt was notified that she couldn’t rely on the value of Gietzen’s home to finance the recount.
Under state law, the person requesting the recount must file a bond, approved by the secretary of state, guaranteeing payment of all costs incurred by counties conducting a recount. If the recount flipped outcome of the abortion amendment vote, Leavitt wouldn’t be obligated to pay the cost. If the recount didn’t change the outcome, she would be responsible for compensating each county for cost of the recount.
Leavitt had until end of the business Monday to personally secure a pathway to $229,000 required to proceed with the challenge. Through an online fundraiser, Leavitt had received commitments of $29,900, or about 10% of the projected cost of the statewide review of ballots.
“Failure to do so will result in the recount request being canceled,” said Brian Caskey, director of elections for Secretary of State Scott Schwab.
In the alternative, Caskey said, Leavitt could amend her recount request to isolate the review to counties for which she could afford to pay the cost.
Ashley All, spokeswoman for the amendment opponent organization Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said basis for the hypothetical recount was unclear.
“Kansans across the political spectrum voted overwhelmingly against this amendment,” All said. “In fact, 165,000 more Kansans voted ‘no.’ They sent a clear message that they want to protect the constitutional rights of women to make private medical decisions for themselves.”
Leavitt said she would continue to pray a miracle occurred in terms of advancing recount on the failed abortion amendment.
“What else can you do when you take a leap of faith? I don’t know,” she said on a social media thread. “I’m getting a lot of hate messages and stuff like that, but so far I’m doing OK and we’re going to keep pushing.”
On Monday, officials in Johnson, Shawnee and Sedgwick counties worked to certify election election results. That included votes for and against the constitutional amendment, which was sought to nullify a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that a right to abortion existed in the Kansas Constitution.
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