Kansas abortion vote tests political energy in post-row America

OLATHE, Kan. – In the last days before Kansas decided whether to remove abortion rights protections from their state constitution, politically competitive Kansas City suburbs became hotbeds of activism.

In neighborhoods where yard signs often tell high school sports teams, repeating abortion-related messages now dot front lawns, too. A cafe known for its chocolate and cheese pies has become a haven for abortion rights advocates and a source of outrage for opponents. Signs have been stolen, a catholic church was ransacked The tension is evident at the peak of the first big vote on the abortion issue since Rowe v. Wade overturned earlier this month and in June.

“I’m really sad that this happened,” said Leslie Schmitz, 54, of Olathe, talking about the abortion access landscape. “And crazy. Sad and crazy.”

There can be no greater motivator in modern American politics than anger. And for months, Republican voters angry with the Biden administration have been explosively proactive about this year’s elections. Meanwhile, Democrats have faced significant challenges with the erosion of their base and independent voters.

But more than 40 voters interviewed this week in Johnson County, Kan., show that after Roe’s downfall, Republicans no longer have a monopoly on Fury — Especially in states where abortion rights are clearly on the ballot, and especially in battlefield suburbs.

“I feel very strongly about this,” said Chris Price, 46, a political independent who voted Mitt Romney for president in 2012 before backing the Democrats when Donald J. Trump was on the ballot. “Candidates who would support an abortion ban, I would not support at all. Period.”

Asked whether abortion rights threats made her feel so motivated about running in midterm elections this fall, Democrat Natalie Roberts-Wilner of Merriam, Kan., said, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Definitely. From.”

Consens on Tuesday a. will vote for constitutional amendment That, if passed, could give the Republican-dominated legislature the ability to pursue new abortion restrictions or outlaw the procedure altogether. Surrounding states, including Missouri — which is separated from some competing Kansas suburbs by a state line road dotted with abortion-related yard signs — have already imposed total bans.

The vote is open to unaffiliated consonants as well as partisans. And whatever the outcome, activists on both sides caution against drawing broad national conclusions from August’s voting question, given the complex crosscurrents at play.

The amendment language itself has been criticized as confusing, and in a heavily Republican state, Democrats and unaffiliated voters are less accustomed to voting on Primary Day. On the other hand, some voters said they would not vote on The amendment but could back Republicans in November – a sign that some who support abortion rights still see other political issues more heavily in the polls. and at the national level, a Washington Post-Shar School Poll released Friday found that Republicans and abortion opponents were more likely to vote in November.

But there’s no question that abortion is debated in the state’s most populous county — Located in Kansas’ third district, one of the nation’s most competitive Congressional seats – presents the first significant national test of how the issue is resonating in the suburban swing region.

Like other highly educated, middle areas – from suburban Philadelphia to Orange County, California – the Third District is home to a substantial number of centre-right voters who, like Mr. Price, were comfortable with Mr. Romney in 2012. But they adopted Democrats in the mid-2018, including Gov. Laura Kelly and Representative Sharis Davids, and many have backed down from Mr. Trump.

Whether those voters will remain in the Democratic side this year, with Mr Trump out of office, has been an open question in American politics. Democrats are betting that outrage over far-reaching abortion restrictions will help the party hang onto at least some of those moderates, despite the extraordinary political headwinds they face.

Republicans insist that anger over inflation — and fear of a recession — will outweigh other concerns for a broader swath of voters. (in elections, far more Americans cite inflation or the economy as the biggest problem facing the country compared to abortion.)

Tuesday’s vote will offer an early snapshot of the outlook and energy around abortion, if not a definitive predictor of how they will behave in voter decline.

“How inspiring is that really?” said Dan Cena, a Democratic strategist who guided the 2018 House takeover of abortion rights, adding that there were signs of improvement for Democrats in some suburban districts recently. “How exactly does this happen, when it itself shifts women, shifts part of the electorate? And it will really give us insight and an opportunity to get answers to it.”

Limited public voting has shown close enough if unexpected Caste.

“It appears that the ‘yes’ vote still has an edge, but it has fallen,” said Kansas Republican Party President Mike Kukelman. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision handing over control of abortion rights to the states, she continued, “There is so much, I think, that Dobbs’ decision provoked pro-choice forces to come out. Is.”

The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that so far there has been an increase of approx. 246 percent In early individual votes compared to the 2018 midterm primary elections. Several polling stations in both moderate and more conservative parts of Johnson County this week were packed with activity throughout the day, including thunderstorms and scorching heat. and on Friday, Scott SchwabRepublican Secretary of State, predicted that About 36 percent of Kansas voters will participate in the 2022 primary, which is slightly up from the 2020 primary.

His office said the constitutional amendment had “increased voter interest in the election.”

“I’ve talked to a number of people who said, ‘I wasn’t involved before but was going to vote,'” Mr. Kukelman said.

Other Republicans said the abortion amendment and Row’s reversal didn’t affect their commitment to vote in other races this year — that they have long been overly preoccupied.

“No one is more active,” said 58-year-old John Morrill of Overland Park, who supports the amendment. “I was already very energetic.”

On the Olathe site, which attracted more conservative voters on Thursday, Melissa Moore said she was voting for the amendment because of the deep beliefs she opposes of abortion.

“I understand women saying, ‘I need to control my body,’ but once you have another body, that’s their body,” Ms Moore said. But when asked how the intense national focus on abortion affected her thinking about voting, she replied, “I’m always energetic.”

Some others at the early polling place in Olathe indicated they were voting against the amendment and were inclined to support Democrats this fall. But he spoke in a calmer tone and declined to give full names, citing concerns about professional response, in an example of how frightening the environment has become.

Patrons at Andre’s, an upscale Swiss cafe, close to the Missouri border, felt free to openly express their opposition to the amendment. restaurant and shop raging controversy Earlier this summer when employees wore “vote no” stickers or buttons and encouraged patrons to vote, many visitors made it clear at lunchtime that they shared those views.

“We just want to make sure people have the right to choose,” said 45-year-old Silvana Botero, who said she and a group of about 20 friends weren’t going to vote and that in November she wanted to know more about voting. was feeling excited.

At a nearby polling place, Republican Shelley Schneider, 66, was more politically conflicted. Ms Schneider opposed the amendment but plans to support some Republicans in November. Still, she was open to Ms. Kelly, the Democratic governor, especially if the amendment was successful. He acknowledged that approving the amendment could open the way for potentially far-reaching action on the part of the legislature.

“I think Laura Kelly is like a defense against anything that might come to pass,” she said. “She might provide some common sense in there.”

Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

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