Abortion amendment vote recount is an ‘Animal House’ moment for Kansas politics

·3 min read
Courtesy of Mark Gietzen

Contemplating the ongoing recount of votes from the election that defeated the Value Them Both Amendment, I’m reminded of a scene from the 1978 movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” It comes after members of the Delta fraternity get expelled from college for various campus shenanigans:

Tim Matheson (Otter): I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

John Belushi (Bluto): We’re just the guys to do it.

Forty-four years later, Mark Gietzen says hold my beer.

Gietzen, the former chairman of the Sedgwick County Republican Party — now leader of the Kansas Republican Assembly and the Kansas Coalition for Life — has pasted together enough funding to pay for a partial recount on the anti-abortion amendment that failed miserably in the Aug. 2 election.

Gietzen is best known for organizing the daily protest outside the Trust Women Clinic and for driving around in the cringe-worthy “Truth Truck,” a moving van featuring grisly, mural-size pictures of aborted fetuses.

To guarantee payment on the recount effort, Gietzen maxed out the Kansas Republican Assembly’s credit card, tapped into his Boeing retirement account and even offered his house as collateral. He and his supporters ultimately raised $120,000, far short of the $230,000 it would cost for a complete recount, but enough to count nine counties — including vote-rich Sedgwick, Johnson, Douglas and Shawnee.

You’ve got to admire the guy’s determination, if not his judgment.

Value Them Both lost by 59% to 41%. The chance that a recount could flip the election is absolute zero.

So why in the world would anyone want to lose the same election twice?

In Gietzen’s case, it’s because he’s swallowed the Big Lie about rigged elections hook, line, sinker, fisherman and boat.

As he told The Wichita Eagle: “The recount is step No. 1. After that, we’re going to do a sampling to find out whether people listed as voting actually voted or if there was some kind of hanky panky going on.”

He doesn’t seem to realize that’s actually an indictment of his own party.

If anybody here could rig an election, it would have to be Republicans, because they’re the only ones positioned to do it.

The secretary of state, a Republican, appoints the election commissioners in the four largest counties: Sedgwick, Johnson, Shawnee and Wyandotte. Democrats have held that office for nine months out of the last 71 years.

County clerks run elections in the smaller counties and they’re overwhelmingly Republicans.

Gietzen just seems to go through life blissfully unaware of the damage he does to his party and the causes he holds dear.

The Truth Truck is a perfect example. It doesn’t make people sympathetic to the pro-life cause — it repulses them. Even ardent pro-lifers shoo their kids away when Gietzen shows up with the gruesome vehicle.

The money financing the doomed recount attempt is money that could have been used in the fall to support Republican candidates in the general election.

And the recount has begun to focus more attention — and not in a good way — on the Republicans’ next big project, another constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot. This one would give the GOP-dominated Legislature the authority to nullify any regulations established by departments that now answer to the governor.

Much of the opposition to Value Them Both was motivated by a deep distrust of the Legislature to responsibly handle abortion regulation.

The recount is a reminder that they beat back one power grab on Aug. 2, and it could inspire them to come back in November and vote no on giving the Legislature control over everything else. That could be disastrous for the GOP.

It’s quite the fallout for a really futile and stupid gesture on somebody’s part.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas