Kansas is the first state to put abortion to a public ballot

Kansas is the first state to put abortion to a public ballot
A small group of protestors picket near the Dickinson County courthouse in Abilene to oppose a constitutional amendment on abortion. The gathering led the county to issue a news release saying they would be arrested if they get within 250 feet of the courthouse. (Kansas Reflector/Mary Grant)

Back in June, the US Supreme Court made a ruling that got rid of a federal constitutional right to an abortion and essentially sent the right to govern abortion back to each state to decide. This governing – which includes legislation for and against abortion access – has mostly been decided by state legislatures. But Kansas has elections today, and it will be the first time citizens vote directly on the issue in a ballot measure. The amendment on the ballot could overrule a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that grants a right to abortion according to the state’s constitution.

Kansas is a pretty conservative state. There are roughly twice as many Republicans who have voted in recent elections than Democrats, so it isn’t exactly an accurate indicator of how the rest of the country will react at the polls. That said, things like turnout relative to recent years and money spent have been and will continue to be watched closely. If voter turnout is high, that could mean that people on either side of the issue are motivated to show up and vote now that it’s up to the states. If the money spent is high, that points to bigger – usually national – groups believing that the issues are politically advantageous.

One way or another, what happens in Kansas today will indicate to the rest of the US how to proceed with handling abortion access in their states.

Key comments:

“I’m actually pretty satisfied everything is going as smooth as it is for as busy as it is," said Michael Abbott, a county election official in Kansas. Mail-in ballots were at roughly three times their numbers in the last similar election at the start of election day.

“We have to have good turnout to stop it," said Ashley All, spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, explaining that the ballot measure will demonstrate how much an abortion rights campaign can persuade centrists to participate. “At the end of the day, it’s about convincing people to vote, and a lot of these unaffiliated folks are pretty motivated."

“If it passes, tomorrow’s vote in Kansas could lead to another state eliminating the right to choose and eviscerating access to health care," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.