Ahead of Kansas’ August 2 ballot measure on abortion, anti-choice groups have been fearmongering about election fraud to undercut the legitimacy of the vote – in particular, by doubling down on false claims that ballot drop-off boxes are especially vulnerable to election interference.
Kansas will be the first state to vote on abortion rights since the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. According to The 19th News, the ballot measure “hinges on whether to amend the state’s constitution so that it explicitly does not protect the right to an abortion.” This would undo precedent set by the state Supreme Court in 2019 that “the state’s guarantee of ‘personal autonomy’ extends to abortion, a ruling that had added an extra layer of security for abortion rights, even without Roe’s protection." It will also give Kansas politicians more authority to pass restrictions on abortion, opening the door to an all-out abortion ban.
State Republicans have stacked the deck by scheduling the ballot measure vote during Kansas’ primary rather than the general election in November, potentially minimizing participation from Democratic and moderate voters and favoring conservative turnout. As Slate noted, “The Republican legislature timed the abortion vote knowing that Kansas’ 2022 primary would be heavy on contested Republican races and light on Democratic ones.” Additionally, “nearly 30 percent of Kansas voters are registered as ‘unaffiliated,’” which means “those more moderate voters are unaccustomed to participating in primary elections because they cannot vote partisan ballots.” Polling on the proposed amendment shows the election will likely be close.
With the right to an abortion at stake, a coalition of abortion opponents have pushed to remove the option of ballot drop-off boxes for voters during the primary, “especially six drop boxes in the district held by Democratic Commissioner Lacey Cruse,” citing concerns that the boxes could be used to cast faulty votes against the amendment even though they “are under lock and key and 24/7 video camera surveillance.” The anti-abortion coalition is led by Donna Lippoldt of the Christian nationalist group Culture Shield Network, which has fearmongered about election drop-off boxes, referencing the conspiracy theory-laden “documentary” 2000 Mules which claimed to have evidence of 2020 ballot box fraud in swing states. (Although many from the right-wing world have celebrated conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza’s film, the so-called evidence has been disputed by The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and past statements from election officials.)
As local paper The Wichita Eagle noted, Lippoldt wants to elect officials “who deny the results of the 2020 presidential election and have pushed for changes that would make it harder for Kansans to vote in the future. The Aug. 2 primary is the first prize. After that, the group plans to mobilize a network of church leaders to install a Christian-right majority on the Kansas Supreme Court.” After the story was printed, the Culture Shield Network attacked the Eagle for being “afraid” to “print the truth” about the ballot boxes.
Similarly, anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen of Kansas Coalition for Life has also been citing 2000 Mules in his attempt to block the use of ballot drop-off boxes. Gietzen, who acknowledged he had “no evidence of voting fraud or anyone using fictitious names at Kansas ballot drop boxes,” claimed that 2000 Mules convinced him that fraudulent votes against the measure were being cast via the boxes. Further, the sheriff in Johnson County – Kansas’ largest county – has announced he is investigating tips regarding election fraud ahead of the August 2 primary, despite a lack of public evidence supporting the claims.
Attempts from anti-abortion groups in Kansas to cast doubt on the ballot measure before it has even happened echo the vast amount of right-wing disinformation and conspiracy theories circulating about supposedly illegitimate elections.
Since the 2020 elections, it has become commonplace for the right-wing echo chamber to fearmonger about nonexistent election fraud, frequently using these baseless allegations to protest undesirable electoral outcomes. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump and other right-wing political figures drummed up panic and confusion about ballot drop-off boxes, even though they were a commonplace, accessible option for voters. An Associated Press survey of state election officials across the U.S. “revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results” and that drop-boxes' expanded use during the last election “did not lead to any widespread problems."