Johnson County approves $45K to pay stipends for workers doing abortion recount

County workers reassigned this week to help with the hand recount of the Aug. 2 abortion amendment will get $100 per day. Above, workers help sort paper ballots on Tuesday ahead of the start of the recount, which began Wednesday. Photo by Lucie Krisman.

At its meeting Thursday, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners approved $45,000 to pay stipends for workers helping with the hand recount of this month’s vote on a constitutional amendment on abortion. 

Why it matters: The compensation approved Thursday will go toward county employees who have been temporarily reassigned to the election office in the effort to count by hand 256,869 paper ballots cast on the Value Them Both amendment in the Aug. 2 primary. 

How it got here: Johnson County is one of nine Kansas counties undergoing a recount this week after anti-abortion activists campaigned and raised nearly $120,000, enough to match the Kansas Secretary of State office’s requirement to fund a partial recount. 

  • The Value Them Both amendment was rejected with nearly 60% of voters statewide rejecting it.
  • The margin was even wider in Johnson County, where nearly 69% of voters said “No,” on the measure that would have stripped abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution if it had been approved. 

How the stipends break down: Each county employee helping with the recount will receive a daily bonus of $100 for each day the recount lasts. 

  • Out of the 150 people needed for the recount, 100 of them are county employees, officials told commissioners Thursday. 
  • Those employees are working from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday to complete the recount.
  • Per the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, the recount must be completed by 5 p.m. Saturday. 

What they’re saying: “This is a process, particularly on this scale, that has not been undertaken before,” said assistant county manager Joe Waters. “It’s asking a lot of someone to show up at nine in the morning and plan to work until seven at night on your feet all day. It’s a task that they’ve undertaken that they didn’t really exactly know what they were getting into.” 

Where the money comes from: The $45,000 will come out of the Johnson County Election Office’s 2022 budget. 

  • At Thursday’s meeting, county chief legal counsel Peg Trent said the county will submit reimbursement requests to the Secretary of State’s office for all personnel and incident expenses related to the recount efforts once it’s complete. 
  • “(This) does include costs for overtime that we’ve incurred,” Trent said. “We will be tracking that overtime through Human Resources in order to submit as reimbursable costs.” 
  • Even then, she said, there is no guarantee the county will be reimbursed fully for the effort, Trent admitted when pressed by the commission.