Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Kansas City Star. August 15, 2022.

Editorial: Republicans are supposedly good with money. Why waste it on Kansas abortion recounts?

After anti-abortion activist Melissa Leavitt called for a recount of the recent statewide vote to keep abortion rights protections in the Kansas Constitution, even fellow conservative and anti-abortion advocate Mark Gietzen admitted the effort could be seen as a waste of the considerable state fee — about $229,000 — to retabulate all votes cast in the Aug. 2 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 last week.

He’s right. It’s not a good use of either.

The chance of overturning a lopsided defeat in an election decided by more than 165,000 votes, with no credible reports of fraud, is infinitesimal.

By Monday, unable to raise the necessary funds for a statewide recount, Gietzen and Leavitt changed tactics. They were instead scrambling to determine how many individual counties they could afford to have ballots recounted in.

“You go forward with what you got,” Gietzen told the editorial board late Monday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the Kansas Secretary of State office confirmed Monday evening that a bond for $119,644 has been posted – enough to go forward with recounts in nine counties, including Crawford, Douglas, Harvey, Jefferson, Johnson, Lyon, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Thomas counties.

Gietzen has defended the recount as proper even if there’s next to no chance it will change the result, arguing it could build voter confidence in future elections.

But challenging the vote in an election that was decided by 59% to 41% of voters amid an unusually high turnout doesn’t restore confidence in an election. It helps undermine it.

There is a role for recounts in any democracy, and clear evidence of even a modicum of fraud should be examined closely. When results are close, a recount can make sense.

But the only responsible action for the losing party in an election with results so clear-cut as the Kansas abortion rights vote is to accept the defeat. Instead of challenging the election, those whose fight against abortion rights came up short would be better off redoubling their efforts to win over voters they apparently weren’t able to persuade.

The full recount Leavitt and others had wanted would have been the first such statewide recount in 30 years on a ballot measure in Kansas, according to election officials. But even a scaled-back recount — the only one the activists could apparently afford — threatens to do more than waste their own funds, and those of the donors who answered their pleas for support. Even with private funds, the recounting will involve wasted time and effort by election officials and staff in every county where the votes are retabulated.

It’s no coincidence that Republican complaints of voter fraud have grown to a roar in the years since Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s refusal to accept that defeat has only stoked unfounded fears of election fraud throughout the United States. Partisans in Kansas have now seized on this narrative to question even an election as lopsided as the Aug. 2 vote.

The activists don’t really expect to overturn the results of the election. But it keeps their image as abortion warriors fresh in the minds of their supporters, and we suppose that must have some value to them.

But at what cost to the rest of us? More division, of course, and more doubt sown in the minds of a weary public about yet another institution central to the life of our democracy. No bond Leavitt and Gietzen could manage to post to move forward with the recount will offset those damages.

___

Topeka Capital-Journal. August 12, 2022.

Editorial: Travis Shumake endorsement is creative and welcome thinking from Visit Topeka and Pride Kansas

Travis Shumake, son of the late NHRA racer Tripp Shumake, was to make his Funny Car debut Friday at the National Hot Rod Association’s Camping World Series at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka.

In doing so, he’ll race in front of nearly 40,000 people — including family and friends — but his debut is special for more than just that. In making his debut, he’ll be the NHRA’s first openly gay drag racer.

He’ll also be promoting Topeka and celebrating the many LGBT people in Kansas.

“For them to be with me in Kansas on the starting line, watching another Shumake take off at five Gs down the drag strip, will be a cool moment,” he said, “and I’m so grateful I get to be a part of bring them back to a sport that’s been so important for us.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Rafael Garcia reports Shumake’s rainbow-colored dragster — complete with rainbow parachutes — is the result of a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with Visit Topeka, the city’s destination marketing organization, and Pride Kansas as the organizations look to promote the city in an inclusive way.

“Having that visibility in the NRHA will show that all aspects of Kansas are inclusive, and we do value diversity,” said Shawn Zarazua, a Pride Kansas committee member. “It’s going to give a voice to people who maybe didn’t feel included before, and it’ll let them know that we see them, we recognize them, and we want the LGBTQ+ community to be visible in all aspects of Kansas communities, society and culture.”

Sean Dixon, president of Visit Topeka, told Garcia the partnership pairs a racer who could increase visibility for a city and sport that historically have been characterized as conservative and unwelcoming to LGBTQ people. The sponsorship will also provide visibility to Pride Kansas’ upcoming three-day event starting Sept. 24, billed as the state’s first statewide LGBTQ festival.

“We had this opportunity to marry a new audience to a historic Topeka tourism event that just hasn’t seen or had that exposure,” Dixon said.

We think this is a great partnership. It demonstrates creative thinking, breaking stereotypes and embracing diversity. And what a flashy way to do it.

It’s inspiring, and we understand Shumake feels some pressure. Being a trailblazer isn’t easy. Nevertheless, we wish him luck. Top City is backing you.

Good luck, Travis!

END