On Tuesday, an unprecedented number of Kansans voted against a constitutional amendment that would have allowed lawmakers to end abortion protections. This is a huge victory for women’s rights, but the result also has important implications for elections across the country this November. That’s especially true in those states where abortion rights are on the post-nullification ballot. Roe vs. Wade and where the Democrats seek to stay in power.
Contrary to what some conservatives had thought, abortion is an issue that can mobilize voters.
More than 900,000 Kansans went to the polls to vote on the state’s abortion referendum. This is the largest turnout for a primary election in state history, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. This figure is closer to what we expect to see in a general election turnout, which is always much higher than in the primaries. And it suggests we could also see high turnout in upcoming primaries where abortion is on the record.
Known as “Value Both,” the amendment would have stripped constitutional protections for abortion stemming from a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. Nearly 60% of Kansas voters this year voted against the amendment, or in favor of abortion rights, while about 40% voted in favor. That margin is higher than expected in a state where polls have shown an even split between those who support abortion and those who oppose it. Nationally, Americans overwhelmingly support access to abortion in some cases.
What is perhaps most surprising about the referendum vote is that it happened in a heavily Republican state. Only a quarter of registered voters in Kansas are Democrats, while 40% are Republicans. Almost a third are unaffiliated.
In the last general election, Kansas, as it has for decades, went for the Republican nominee. But in Tuesday’s primary, in every county, the referendum vote was to the left of where it was in the 2020 presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis of Kansas Secretary of State data.
The referendum, in particular, seems to have brought out women, seen as the most affected by abortion laws. As Tom Bonier, CEO of Democratic data firm TargetSmart, noted, the share of new Kansas registrants who were women soared after the U.S. Supreme Court news. Dobbs decision
The Dobbs decision involved women in Kansas to an unprecedented degree.
This chart shows the percentage of new registrants in the state who were women (as a 7-day average). Note the spike after the Dobbs decision leaked and a big jump after the Supreme Court ruled on it. pic.twitter.com/pvi3WpuR86
— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) August 3, 2022
In Kansas, the issue drew a record number of voters. Even Republicans might have voted for abortion rights. The question now is whether people across the country will also pitch in for this issue.