Abortion vote in Kansas tests political energy in post-Raw America

OLATHE, it was. In the final days before Kansans decided whether to remove abortion rights protections from the state constitution, the politically competitive suburbs of Kansas City became hotspots of activity.

In neighborhoods where yard signs often promoted high school sports teams, messages about fencing abortion are now also circulating on front lawns. A café known for its chocolate and cheesecake has become a haven for abortion rights advocates and a source of anger for opponents. Signs were stolen, a Catholic church was vandalized earlier this month, and the tension is palpable on the cusp of the first major vote on the abortion issue since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.

“I’m really sad about what happened,” said Leslie Schmitz, 54, of Olathe, of the abortion access scene. “And crazy. Sad and mad.”

There may be no greater motive in modern American politics than anger. For months, Republican voters angry at the Biden administration have been aggressively active about this year’s election. Meanwhile, Democrats faced an erosion of their base and major challenges with independent voters.

But interviews with more than 40 voters in densely populated Johnson County, Kansas, show that after Roe fell, Republicans no longer had a monopoly on anger — Especially in states where abortion rights are clearly listed on the ballot papers and especially in the outskirts of the battlefield.

“I feel very strongly about it,” said Chris Price, 46, an independent politician who said he voted for Mitt Romney for president in 2012 before supporting Democrats when Donald Trump was on the ballot. I will not support candidates who will support a ban on abortion at all. periods”.

When asked if threats to abortion rights have affected how excited she is to participate in this fall’s midterm elections, Natalie Roberts Wellner, Democrat of Miriam, Kansas, added, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Sure.”

On Tuesday, Kansans will vote on a constitutional amendment that, if passed, could give the Republican-controlled legislature the power to impose new restrictions on abortion or outlaw the procedure entirely. Neighboring states including Missouri—separated from some competitive Kansas suburbs by the state line, a road rife with abortion-related yard signs—have already enacted a near-total ban.

Voting is open to unaffiliated Kansans as well as partisans. Whatever the outcome, activists on both sides caution against drawing sweeping national conclusions from the August ballot question, given the complex cross currents at play.

The language of the amendment itself has been criticized as confusing, and in an overwhelmingly Republican state, Democrats and unaffiliated voters are less accustomed to voting on the primary day. On the other hand, few voters said they would not vote for Amendment but could support Republicans in November — a sign that some who support abortion rights still weigh other political issues more heavily in the election. Nationally, a Washington Post School Shar poll Friday found that Republicans and abortion opponents were more likely to vote in November.

But there’s no doubt that the abortion controversy in the state’s most populous county—located in Kansas’s 3rd district, one of the most competitive congressional seats in the country—provides the first important national test of how the issue appears in swing suburbs.

Like other highly educated temperate regions – from suburban Philadelphia to Orange County, California. The third district is home to a large number of center-right voters who, like Mr. price, she was comfortable with mr. Romney in 2012. But they embraced Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, including the governor. Laura Kelly and Representative Charice Davids, many have bounced from mr. trump card.

Whether these voters are still in the Democratic fold this year, with mr. Trump out of office, it has been an open question in American politics. Democrats are betting that anger over far-reaching abortion restrictions will help the party hold on to at least some of those moderates, despite the unusual political headwinds they face.

Republicans insist that anger over inflation – and fear of recession – will crowd out other concerns of a broad swath of the electorate. (In opinion polls, far more Americans cite inflation or the economy as the biggest problem facing the country than abortion.)

Tuesday’s vote will provide an early glimpse into attitudes and energy around abortion, if not a definitive indication of how these fall voters will act.

“How much incentive is that really?” Dan Cena, the Democratic strategist who led the House’s 2018 takeover of abortion rights, said there have recently been signs of Democrats improving in some suburban neighborhoods. “How do you actually, when alone, move the women, move parts of the electorate? That would really give us insight and a chance to get an answer to that.”

A limited public survey showed a fairly close if unpredictable race.

“The ‘yes’ vote still seems to be taking the lead, but that has diminished,” said Mike Kukelman, the Kansas Republican Party chairman. Quoted from Dobbs v. He continued that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization’s decision to hand over control of abortion rights to states, “a lot of it, I think, because Dobbs’ decision has spurred pro-choice forces out.”

The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that there has been, to date, about a 246 percent increase in early in-person voting compared to the 2018 midterm primaries. Many polling stations in both the moderate and more conservative parts of Johnson County this week were crowded all day , including in a rainstorm and in the heat of baking. And on Friday, Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab announced, expect it About 36 percent of Kansas voters will participate in the 2022 primaries, up slightly from the 2020 primaries.

His office said the constitutional amendment “increased voters’ interest in the elections.”

“I spoke to several people who said, ‘I didn’t participate previously but I will vote,'” said Mr. Kuckelman.

Other Republicans said the abortion amendment and repeal of the Roe Act didn’t affect their commitment to voting in other races this year — because they’ve long been involved in a big way.

“No more activism,” said John Morrell, 58, of Overland Park, who supports the amendment. “I was already very active.”

At Olathe, which attracted more conservative voters on Thursday, Melissa Moore said she’s voting for the amendment because of her deeply held beliefs against abortion.

“I understand women say, ‘I need to control my body,’ but once you have another body in there, that’s their body,” Ms. Moore said. But when asked how the intense national focus on abortion has affected the way she thinks about voting, she replied, “I’ve always been more active.”

Few other early voting site Olathee indicated that they were voting against the amendment and were leaning towards supporting Democrats this fall. But they spoke softly and declined to give full names, citing concerns about professional backlash, in an illustration of how difficult the environment was.

Near the Missouri border, patrons of Café Andre, a high-end Swiss coffee house, felt more free to publicly express their opposition to the amendment. The restaurant and store sparked controversy earlier this summer when employees wore “Vote No” stickers or buttons and encouraged customers to vote, but many lunchtime visitors made it clear that they shared those views.

“We just want to make sure people have their rights to make decisions,” said Silvana Botero, 45, who said she and a group of about 20 friends “just want to make sure people have their rights to make decisions,” and that she felt more excited about voting in November, too.

At a nearby polling site, Shelley Schneider, a 66-year-old Republican, had the most political struggle. Ms. Schneider opposed the amendment but planned to support some Republicans in November. However, she was open to Mrs. Kelly is the Democratic governor, especially if the amendment succeeds. She acknowledged that approval of the amendment could open the way for far-reaching action by the legislature.

“I think Laura Kelly is kind of a hedge against anything that might pass,” she said. “It might provide some common sense there.”

Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

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