Republican group’s credit card was offered to pay for Kansas abortion amendment recount

·4 min read
Chris Ochsner/cochsner@kcstar.com

A credit card belonging to the Kansas Republican Assembly was provided to advance a statewide recount of the abortion amendment vote expected to cost more than $229,000, said Mark Gietzen, the group’s president and a strident anti-abortion activist.

The amendment, called Value Them Both, would have stripped abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution. Instead the measure suffered a landslide 59% to 41% defeat, with 165,000 more voters rejecting the proposal than supporting it.

Melissa Leavitt, of Colby, requested a recount of the vote before a 5 p.m. Friday deadline. Kansas requires a bond for the cost of the recount before it begins, and a crowd-funding page had raised less than $5,000 as of Saturday afternoon.

But Gietzen, who is also director of the Kansas Coalition for Life, said in an interview Saturday that a credit card for the Kansas Republican Assembly was provided to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. The money has not yet been withdrawn from the card, Gietzen said.

The Kansas Republican Assembly, a hard-right group, did not have enough money in its account on Friday to cover the cost of a statewide recount, he said. But — between his own personal funds and Leavitt’s online fundraising campaign — Gietzen said he’s good for the money.

“If they were to run that (card), I do not have $200,000 in the KRA account,” Gietzen said. “We will have it covered by Monday. I can personally max-out a bunch of credit cards and do whatever it takes.”

Although Leavitt requested a statewide hand recount, Gietzen left open the possibility the recount could be narrowed depending on how much money is ultimately available.

“We’re definitely going to have a recount,” Gietzen said. “I cannot give you a definitive on whether it’s going to be the whole state.”

Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, told The Star on Friday that Leavitt had posted a $200,000 bond. Leavitt, who declined to speak to reporters on Friday, wrote on TikTok on Saturday that “the bond was not paid yet.” On Sunday, Tempel said the Secretary of State’s office was “comfortable” with a down payment provided by Leavitt, but didn’t disclose the size of the payment.

Tempel said if Leavitt ultimately doesn’t have the full bond amount for the cost of the recount, expected to be about $229,000, the recount won’t take place.

“The next 48 hours is going to have a lot to do with God moving in people’s lives,” Leavitt said in a video posted to TikTok on Saturday. “And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Individuals who request recounts get their money back if the outcome of the election changes. But if the recount doesn’t alter the results, the state disburses the money to local jurisdictions to offset the costs.

Gietzen, who said he forged a friendship with Leavitt after she testified at the Kansas statehouse earlier this year, contends the results will change enough that he won’t have to pay the bond.

Gietzen has a long history of anti-abortion activism in Kansas. He helped orchestrate candidate recruitment in Sedgwick County during the “Summer of Mercy,” the 1991 protests in Wichita that helped make abortion a prominent political issue in Kansas. Abortion opponents were then able to take over the Sedgwick County Republican Party the following year.

Soon after the amendment vote, Gietzen, without offering evidence, raised the possibility of fraud in the election. In a message last Saturday to supporters of the Kansas Republican Assembly, he called the results “outlandish” and claimed, falsely, the election wasn’t certifiable “without an examination of what happened.”

Before the Aug. 2 election, Gietzen, who is based in Wichita, filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County in an attempt to stop the use of ballot drop boxes. He had cited fears the drop boxes would be targeted for election fraud in the election. Sedgwick County District Court Judge Deborah Hernandez Mitchell dismissed the lawsuit, saying Gietzen lacks standing.

Gietzen is appealing and said he hopes the recount will show discrepancies he can use in his appeal.

Any recount — whether statewide or a subset of counties — is all but guaranteed to affirm the amendment’s defeat. Any small differences in vote totals that may be found from recounts fall far short of the 165,000 vote margin of victory.

Gietzen maintains the recount could help build confidence in future elections and believes it has a “fifty-fifty” chance of changing the outcome of the election.

“If there was zero chance of changing it, you know, then it would be really questionable whether this is a good use of time and money,” Gietzen said.

The Star’s Judy Thomas and the Associated Press contributed reporting