Republicans Should Be Terrified Over Abortion Referendum Turnout in Kansas


  • Kansas voters turned out in huge numbers to defeat an anti-abortion amendment. 
  • Kansas rejected the amendment by a margin of over 20 points, a blowout loss. 
  • The exceptionally high turnout is a major loss for anti-abortion groups and a warning sign for the GOP.

Kansas voters turned out in droves to summarily reject the first anti-abortion ballot measure in the post-Roe v. Wade era — and dealt a major warning sign to Republicans hoping the drastic curtailing of abortion rights nationwide won’t dent their prospects in the 2022 midterms. 

Amendment 2 was pushed by anti-abortion activists and would have established no right to abortion and no right for government funding for abortion under the Kansas constitution. 

With over 830,000 votes counted and 99% of the vote reporting as of 12:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, “no” was trouncing “yes” by 60% to 40%, a gaping 20-point margin. 

The number of total votes cast on the amendment makes up nearly three-quarters of the votes cast in the general election in 2018, a midterm that saw a Democratic “blue wave,” according to the US Elections Project. That number also comes close to matching the roughly 887,00 votes cast in the general election in 2014 and the 858,000 cast in 2010 — both midterm years where the political climate also largely favored Republicans. 

With over 800,000 voters turning out to vote for the amendment — compared to 470,000 who voted in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial primaries — the referendum demonstrated a potent motivator for abortion rights supporters. With the 2022 election ahead, abortion access being directly on the ballot could pose a serious problem for the GOP that they hadn’t had to face in a world without Roe v. Wade’s protections. 

A “yes” vote on the measure would have eliminated the right to abortion under the state constitution, while the “no” vote left the constitutional protections to abortion in Kansas unchanged, preserving the status quo.

Lower turnout levels typically associated with primaries, especially in midterm elections, and a political environment favoring the Republican Party were initially anticipated to favor proponents of the amendment.

But before polls even closed, Kansas’ chief election official, Secretary of State Scott Schwab, predicted that turnout in the August primary was on track to surpass the offices’ projected 36% of the electorate and could go as high as 50%, a notably high rate for a midterm-year primary. 

 

With over 99% of the results reporting, the “no” vote on the measure significantly outperformed President Joe Biden’s vote share in several blue counties he won in the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, the “yes” vote underperformed and failed to crack 60% of the vote in several counties former President Donald Trump won handily in 2020.

In this photo from Friday, July 8, 2022, a sign in a yard in Olathe, Kansas, promotes a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to allow legislators to further restrict or ban abortion

In this photo from Friday, July 8, 2022, a sign in a yard in Olathe, Kansas, promotes a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to allow legislators to further restrict or ban abortion

John Hanna/AP


Americans’ views on abortion can, in many cases, be murky and hard to parse, but most opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, and as the result of the Kansas amendment shows, strict abortion bans or “trigger laws” are often overwhelmingly unpopular among voters of both major political parties. 

And, when given the chance to shape abortion policy directly, Kansas voters displayed no appetite for enabling strict abortion bans after nearly six weeks of being faced with the real-world consequences playing out across the country. 

The voters’ decision upholds a 2019 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court establishing a right to abortion under the Kansas Bill of Rights, preserving a potential legal guardrail against the kind of abortion restrictions that could be passed into law if a Republican wins the governor’s race in November.

It also — for now — maintains Kansas’ status as a crucial access point for abortion care in the Midwest and Southwest. 

Still, Amendment 2 supercharging turnout and getting swiftly trounced at the polls doesn’t spell complete doom for Republicans, who are still favored by election analysts and forecasters to win back the House of Representatives.

But it offers a warning sign ahead for the fate of future anti-abortion ballot measures, two of which are up in November in Kentucky and Montana, Republicans’ hopes for muted Democratic enthusiasm and turnout for November, and — possibly — the state-level elected officials who champion harsh abortion bans and restrictions.





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