Kansas Turnout Soars in First Post-Roe Abortion Vote

·3 min read
Kansas Turnout Soars in First Post-Roe Abortion Vote

(Bloomberg Government) -- Kansas could have a record-setting primary election turnout Tuesday as voters decide the first abortion-focused ballot measure since the US Supreme Court overturned its Roe vs. Wade decision.

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A proposed amendment would add to the state constitution a declaration that there’s no right to abortion—a step that would free the Republican-controlled state Legislature to pass restrictions or an outright ban.

Across the state, Election Day brought temperatures forecast to hit the 90s and complaints about last-minute misdeeds.

At a polling place inside a church, Kansans for Life voter guides were left on the reception desk, the Wichita Eagle reported. The night before, a text-messaging service suspended the sender of anonymous texts claiming that a “yes” vote would “give women a choice”, the Kansas City Star reported. The way the proposed amendment is worded, a “yes” vote actually would oppose abortion rights.

Early voting was robust. As of Monday, 271,438 ballots had been cast. That’s far more than the last midterm primary in 2018, when advance mail-in and in-person ballots totaled 89,449, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

Unaffiliated voters—who’d generally have little reason to pay attention to a primary—delivered more than 40,000 of the early votes. Republicans cast 122,677; Democrats, 106,800; and Libertarians, 1,457, according to the state’s data.

“I would certainly believe that the amendment is driving up turnout,” University of Kansas Professor Patrick Miller said in an email.

Some of the GOP turnout could be because of heightened interest in the races for the Republican nominations for attorney general and secretary of state, Miller said.

One of those contenders, Kris Kobach, is campaigning on a promise to create a new division within the attorney general’s office specifically for suing President Joe Biden. See also: First Post-Dobbs Vote Tests Kansas Abortion Foes’ Strategy A “yes” vote on the proposed amendment would overrule a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that found the state Constitution grants abortion rights.

That, in turn, would open the door for Kansas to change laws that currently permit abortions through the first 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The Kansas ballot measure will show the degree to which an abortion rights campaign can get centrists to care, said Ashley All, spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom.

“We have to have good turnout to stop it,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about convincing people to vote, and a lot of these unaffiliated folks are pretty motivated.”

The early turnout surge followed months of rallies, door-knocking, and advertising campaigns. Combined, the organizations trying to sway votes for and against the amendment spent nearly $13 million on TV commercials, according to data compiled by AdImpact.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion activists will watch the results closely as they prepare for ballot measures this fall in at least four other states.

The anti-abortion Value Them Both Coalition didn’t respond to requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

(Updates with reported text-message and literature incidents in the fourth paragraph.)

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