Earlier this month, Kansas became the first state in the nation to take a popular vote on abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade. Voters in the red state overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have removed the guaranteed right to abortion from the state Constitution and inevitably led to a total ban—by a nearly 20% margin.
In the days since the historic vote, Kansas anti-abortion activists have responded with about as much grace as you’d expect: by essentially accusing pro-abortion rights organizers of voter fraud, sans evidence. As of this weekend, they’re also demanding a recount. Kansas Secretary of State Bryan Caskey has agreed to oversee a recount of the ballot measure by hand, but only on the condition that anti-abortion activist Melissa Leavitt, who formally requested the recount, pays for it.
Leavitt reportedly posted a $200,000 bond to fund the recount, and is currently furiously fundraising for $275,000 for it. “I’m just going to say the next 48 hours is going to have a lot to do with God moving in people’s lives,” she said in a Saturday TikTok video. “And if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. But I’m praying.”
Again, without a shred of evidence, Leavitt is claiming she’s “seen data ... that there were irregularities” on election night. She continued: “Kansas simply does not do enough to put the minds of voters at rest with their % based random audit system. Vote flipping discovered in Cherokee County found this week called my spirit to seek truth where it has been dismantled in our election process.” As of Monday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised just under $30,000.
Following the Big Lie in 2020, this is apparently the new normal: Right-wingers claiming any outcome they don’t like is fraud. All of this, of course, is merely projection for their own shady behaviors. The Value Them Both campaign claimed the measure was “reasonable,” “moderate,” and not an abortion ban—all while privately, its leaders promised a total state-wide ban and fetal personhood. From the jump, its framing (a “yes” vote against abortion and a “no” vote for abortion) was purposefully confusing, and it even sent voters texts claiming to be “pro-choice.” Yet, since Election Night on Aug. 2, even before Leavitt’s bogus voter fraud lies, the campaign claimed “Kansans endured an onslaught of misinformation from radical left organizations.” Sure, Jan.
The recount already sounds like a massive waste of time and resources, seeing as even outcomes with narrower margins that trigger recounts seldom change—I can’t imagine a recount budging a 165,000-vote victory margin. “Normally, they reinforce the Election Day results,” Caskey told the Associated Press. “We stand by the results and will do the recount.” The recount, he emphasized, won’t begin until Leavitt pays up in full. Self-identified “pro-life” activists might instead have fundraised $200,000 to support struggling families and children, but alas, they’re throwing it at a symbolic challenge of a resounding abortion rights victory.
It’s no wonder why Kansas anti-abortion activists are refusing to accept this outcome: The outcome is a reminder that the overturning of Roe and every abortion ban that’s taken effect since is vastly unpopular with voters. These outcomes are a product of racist, targeted voter suppression and our country’s fundamentally anti-democratic governing system rather than popular support. Polling has previously shown the majority of Americans everywhere—not just “blue” states—oppose abortion bans. Kansas voters decisively reinforced this.
The stakes for defeating the ballot measure were huge. Kansas has essentially become the last abortion haven in the Midwest. Three of the four states bordering it have moved to ban abortion, reportedly quadrupling out-of-state abortion seekers.
As anti-abortion activists funnel money into a dead-end driven by baseless lies, hopefully Democratic candidates see the clear takeaway from all of this: They should be centering abortion on the campaign trail and striving to pass vital abortion rights legislation in office. The “no” vote outperformed President Joe Biden in counties across Kansas. When the right to abortion is on the ballot, it wins—no amount of crying “voter fraud” and searching for over 165,000 “missing” anti-abortion votes will change this.