Kansas abortion foes got their recount and here’s what it shows

In the first ballot-box test of abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Kansas electorate kept abortion legal in their state, by a vote of 543,855 (59%) to 378,466 (41%), see details here.

Anti-abortion activists requested a recount, raising $50,000 online, with another $120,000 from GOP legislator Mark Gietzen (photo below), a not-wealthy guy who makes his living as a flight instructor, who put some of that on the Kansas GOP’s credit card and dipped into his retirement savings for the rest (smooth move, dude).

That wasn’t enough to pay for a statewide recount, but got them hand recounts in Kansas’ two largest counties by population (including Wichita and Kansas City), and seven other counties.

They had every right to do this, as Kansas law allows it, and taxpayers didn’t pay for it. We all should respect that. (There was, however, criticism of alleged leeway the secretary of state, a Republican, gave the requesters in terms of meeting filing and bond deadlines.)

Unlike the scammy “audits” that Republicans have pushed in some states in their efforts to discredit valid 2020 election results, this was a state-sanctioned recount conducted by election officials and workers, not outsiders, and changes the legal results prior to certification.

Here’s what they got for their $120,000: Eight more votes against abortion, and 49 fewer votes for abortion rights, for a net change of 57 votes against abortion. That means abortion rights won by only 165,332 votes (out of 922,280 total votes), instead of 165,389 votes (out of 922,321 votes). (Read story here.)

The people behind this recount weren’t so stupid as to expect it to change the results, nor is that what they spent $120,000 for. Their goal is to inflate the minor errors every recount turns up into distrust of the election process, as part of the GOPs larger effort to undermine democracy.

Elections aren’t perfect and don’t have to be. The system in place works by providing for careful recounts and court challenges of elections close enough to be affected by miscounts or diswcrepancies. That’s why most states provide automatic recounts, at taxpayer expense, of close elections (typically 1/2% margin or less). I’ve watched a hand recount at close quarters, and I’m satisfied the methods used produce extremely accurate results. Attacking this system because the initial tallying of hundreds of thousands of ballots was off by a few votes is intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible.

But Gietzen and his crowd aren’t stopping there. “The next step is to check the registrations of the people who they say voted,” he said. “So we’ll be visiting homes to see if anyone lives there – maybe 10 out of every precinct.” If you’re a Kansas resident, you don’t have to open the door, talk to them, or answer their questions. They have no authority to validate voter registrations; that’s a state and county responsibility, to be done by trained election workers, not partisan snipe hunters. That, too, is a partisan effort to discredit legitimate election results.

Our voter registration system isn’t full of holes, as Republicans claim it is. It isn’t 100.0000% foolproof; nothing on earth can be. This blog has recounted a handful of cases where people voted in more than one state (see, e.g., postings here and here). But in nearly all cases, Republican claims of voter registration fraud are either grossly inflated or just plain wrong.

For example, the Arizona GOP’s sham “audit” of that state’s 2020 election “found” 282 ballots cast by “dead” voters, but when the state attorney general’s office reviewed these cases, they determined that 281 of the supposedly “dead” voters were alive, and the one vote by a voter who had died wasn’t counted (see story here).

Recounts are for checking the accuracy of ballot tallies and nothing else. A recount result will normally be more accurate than a first count, for a variety of reasons, but experience across the country has shown that in a statewide contest the difference won’t be more than a few dozen or couple hundred votes.

For generations, the basic rule of American democracy is that when the people have spoken, they’ve spoken. But this generation of Republicans wants different rules, so the people don’t get to speak. Don’t buy that hogwash. We need to defend our free and fair election system against those trying to tear it down.

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