Anti-abortion advocates have been shocked and pro-abortion advocates shocked by a crucial statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas this week to protect access to abortion, but this is unlikely to translate into new pro-abortion votes in November’s US election becomes.
Four other states — California, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont — could vote on abortion access in November, and a fifth, Montana, is voting on a measure that would require abortion providers to give a fetus born alive after a, to give life-saving treatment failed abortion. Opponents argue that federal law already provides these protections. It is likely that no other abortion initiatives will come to a state election in November.
The Kansas vote was the first test of public opinion on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade, and she turned political assumptions on their head.
Voters rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring that it does not grant abortion rights. That would have opened the door for the GOP-controlled legislature to further restrict or ban abortion and reverse a 2019 decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that access was a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.
HOW WAS THE RESULT OF THE KANSAS ELECTION A SURPRISE?
In the Republican state with deep ties to the anti-abortion movement, pro-choice advocates gained nearly 18 percentage points. They took the result as confirmation that access to abortion is popular.
Officials from several national abortion rights groups argued that the vote showed that avoiding talking about abortion was a mistake for Democrats in red states like Kansas and that support for abortion rights could drive voters to the polls. In Kentucky, donations to the abortion rights cause were immediate, said Tamarra Wieder, state director of the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
The Kansas election coincided with the state’s primary. Over the past 10 years, turnout for a midterm primary has averaged less than 26%, with Republicans casting twice as many ballots as Democrats.
But turnout for that election was over 45% — nearly 915,000 voters — nearing levels typically seen in a fall gubernatorial election. More than half of registered Democrats and Republicans cast their ballots. At least 28% of registered non-party voters, unable to vote on anything else on Tuesday’s ballots, voted in favor of the proposed change.
The result also indicated that a significant number of Republicans voted against the proposed change.
“Three things are really important to note in Kansas: First, the depth of the victory; second, the increased turnout; and third, that this happened during a midterm election outside of the year,” said Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of MomsRising, an abortion rights advocacy group.
Anti-abortion advocates argued that the vote was a temporary setback and vowed to keep voting anti-abortion candidates.
CAN EVERY SIDE ASK VOTERS IN MY STATE A QUESTION IN NOVEMBER?
Probably not. For one thing, half the states that allow voters to ask questions on the ballot without having to go through the legislature have passed deadlines to do so.
In Ohio, Democratic nominee for governor Nan Whaley has called for an abortion rights measure to be put on the ballot as early as next year, and efforts for 2024 have begun in Colorado and South Dakota. In Iowa, GOP lawmakers have taken the first step to put an anti-abortion measure on the ballot in 2024.
In Kansas, anti-abortion lawmakers expected voters to approve their measure.
BUT THERE WILL BE VOTING IN SOME STATES IN NOVEMBER?
Yes, but these efforts were all underway prior to the Kansas vote.
Legislators in California and Vermont put abortion rights protection measures on the ballot, and Kentucky lawmakers have on the ballot a measure similar to the one that failed in Kansas.
In Michigan, pro-choice advocates believe they’ve submitted enough signatures to put an abortion-rights amendment in the state constitution to the November election, but the signatures have yet to be counted.
The Montana referendum was also initiated by lawmakers.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE IN STATES THAT ALLOW IT FOR VOTER TO RECEIVE A QUESTION ON THE VOTING?
They must distribute petitions and collect tens of thousands of signatures from registered voters; The number is often a percentage of the votes cast in a previous election. Some states set requirements to get signatures from the entire state, not just one or two metropolitan areas.
In Nebraska, anti-abortion advocates are focused on winning another seat in the one-house legislature for the two-thirds majority needed to overcome filibusters and pass an abortion ban. A voting initiative there must collect nearly 88,000 signatures from at least 5% of registered voters in 38 of its 93 boroughs, known as the “two-fifths rule.”
In Missouri, it can take a year for initiatives to reach a vote, and in Oklahoma, the average length over the past 10 years has been more than a year — 64 weeks — according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“If you could do it from start to finish in nine months, you would have progressed really fast,” said Amber England, an Oklahoma political strategist who has been working to get questions on the ballot for the past few years.
The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which advises progressive groups on the ballot issues campaign, advises that work should take three years, including community building, before signatures are even circulated.
IS IT THEREFORE ABOUT SUFFICIENT VALID SIGNATURES IN THE RIGHT PLACES?
Not necessarily. Other hurdles may exist, particularly when officials involved in the process resist an initiative.
In Missouri in 2019, opponents of a law banning most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy tried to get a proposed repeal on the ballot, but Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, an anti-abortion Republican, took the time to listen to proponents’ language check only two weeks to collect signatures. While supporters of the initiative sued – and won – the Supreme Court’s final ruling didn’t come until earlier this year.
“It was a significant win,” said Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri. “But we didn’t get a replay.”
Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Also involved were Sean Murphy of Oklahoma City, Scott McFetridge of Des Moines, Iowa, and Julie Carr Smyth of Columbus, Ohio.
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