TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hasn’t started a statewide hand recount of this month’s decisive vote in favor of abortion rights because the abortion opponents seeking it haven’t shown that they can cover the costs of an effort that wouldn’t change the outcome.
The state’s elections director gave a western Kansas woman until 5 p.m. Monday to provide cash, a valid check or a credit card with a sufficient balance to cover the $229,000 in expected costs for the state’s 105 counties. The recount request came Friday from Melissa Leavitt, an election conspiracy promoter from Colby, but Mark Gietzen, a hard-right anti-abortion activist from Wichita, pledged to help pay for the recount.
Voters on Aug. 2 overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to further restrict abortion or ban it. The “no” side prevailed by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes.
There has been no evidence of significant problems with the election. Baseless election conspiracies have circulated widely in the U.S., particularly among supporters of former President Donald Trump, who has repeated false claims that he lost the 2020 election through fraud.
The secretary of state’s office released an email from Elections Director Bryan Caskey to Leavitt, in which he said she provided Gietzen’s “financial assets” as the bond to cover the recount costs. Caskey rejected that pledge but told Leavitt that she could narrow her recount request to specific counties to lower the potential costs.
Leavitt did not immediately respond to a phone message Monday morning seeking comment. Gietzen told The Associated Press that he hoped to use his home as the collateral for a bond, without being more specific about what form it would take.
“We’re working on it,” Gietzen said.
Leavitt has an online fundraising effort and had received more than $33,000 in donations as of late morning Monday. Records available online from Sedgwick County, home to Wichita, showed the appraised value of Gietzen’s home to be less than $47,000.
Kansas law says the person seeking a recount pays for it unless it changes the outcome, in which case counties do. The law also gives counties until 5 p.m. Wednesday to complete a recount.
Some counties still were compiling final results that were due Monday, reviewing provisional ballots cast by voters when poll workers weren’t sure they were eligible.
Those counties included Douglas County in northeastern Kansas, which is home to the main University of Kansas campus, where initial results showed 81% of voters had rejected the proposed abortion amendment. County Clerk Jamie Shew, an elected Democrat, said he made plans to bring in 18 to 20 people to do the recount and start Tuesday.
“All of us are moving forward on our plans,” Shew said of county election officials. “When we’re told to start, we’ll start.”
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