Voters overwhelmingly voted against a measure that would have allowed abortion to be banned in Kansas in the first post-Roe test of abortion's legality put directly to the people.
As of Wednesday morning—with 95 percent of precincts reporting—the vote was 58.8 percent against and 41.2 percent for, according to The New York Times.
The ballot measure would have amended the Kansas constitution to state that it did not protect the right to have an abortion. Such an amendment would open the gates for state lawmakers to ban abortion—an option currently blocked by a 2019 state Supreme Court finding that the Kansas Constitution's guarantee of "equal and inalienable rights" included a "natural right of personal autonomy" that protected abortion access.
But voters yesterday gave a resounding no to the question "should the Kansas constitution be amended to remove protections of abortion rights?"
The vote isn't the result of low turnout—Kansans voted on the abortion measure in numbers normally not seen in non-general elections.
Secretary of State Scott Schwab says that, based on anecdotal evidence, turnout today may match the turnout in the 2008 presidential general election contest.
That would be around 50% turnout, way above the 36% turnout his office predicted earlier this week. #ksleg
— Katie Bernard (@KatieJ_Bernard) August 3, 2022
Nor is it a result of August elections typically favoring more liberal voters. "When the Legislature's GOP supermajority placed the amendment on the ballot last year they picked the election most likely to favor the amendment," notes The Kansas City Star. "August primaries have disproportionately high Republican turnout because Democratic primaries in Kansas are often uncontested."
And it doesn't turn on results from more liberal urban areas or university towns alone. Suburban Johnson county overwhelmingly voted against it:
Johnson County, Kansas is a big populous suburban county. Voted for Biden 53-45. NO on removing protections for abortion rights is winning 72-28.
THIS is how the suburbs are responding to the reversal of Roe.
— Katie Paris (@katiebparis) August 3, 2022
Rural counties such as Franklin and Osage also voted against the amendment "by significant margins," reports the Star. And even many rural counties that voted for it did so by smaller margins than they did for Donald Trump in 2020.
Whether Kansas is a good bellwether for the rest of the country on this issue is debatable. But Kansas is a relatively conservative and Republican state, and residents voting against an anti-abortion initiative at least suggests that conservative enthusiasm for banning abortion might not be as strong as many believe.
Of course, Kansans voting down this ballot measure doesn't meant they wouldn't support a 15-week limit on legal abortion or other more moderate restrictions. But a total ban—which the measure would have allowed for—doesn't seem to have majority support.
With the Kansas abortion amendment vote, just a reminder that there are a sizable number of voters who:
-consider themselves pro-life or who would support prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks
-also believe Roe should be upheld.
(Our @EchelonInsights May data, pre-Dobbs —>) pic.twitter.com/UWpfLfRyGF
— Kristen Soltis Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) August 3, 2022
Does this mean Democrats will benefit from calling out GOP extremism on abortion? Some think so.
"It's clear there are more than a few Republican voters who oppose extreme anti-abortion restrictions. Suggests opportunities for Democrats in November with a 'vote against anti-abortion extremism' message," conservative pundit Bill Kristol tweeted.
The vote is "a warning to Republicans who had celebrated the Supreme Court ruling and were moving swiftly with abortion bans or near-bans in nearly half the states," and "a dash of hope for Democrats nationwide grasping for a game-changer during an election year otherwise filled with dark omens for their prospects in November," the Associated Press suggests.
I'm not as convinced. In my experience, few moderates and Republicans are single-mindedly attached to protecting abortion rights. They may oppose abortion bans, but they won't reject an otherwise simpatico candidate who supports them (or vote for a liberal candidate just because that candidate opposes them). Meanwhile, Republican candidates are—probably now more than ever—under pressure from pro-life factions, who still make up much of their base. Which means Republican politicians and lawmakers still have a lot to gain and little to lose from opposing legal abortion. And Republican-controlled legislatures are likely to keep proposing and passing extreme abortion bans, even if these bans aren't universally popular among their constituents or wanted by a majority of their state's residents.
That's why abortion ballot initiatives like this one in Kansas are a good way to actually leave the question of abortion's legality up to the residents of each state.
Several other abortion ballot measures are forthcoming. A measure similar to the one that just failed in Kansas will be on the ballot in Kentucky this November, while the question of whether the state constitution should protect abortion rights explicitly will go to voters in Vermont and also likely in Michigan.
In other abortion-related news:
• The Department of Justice is suing Idaho over its abortion ban.
• Residents of Georgia can now list embryos and fetuses as dependents on their tax returns. In new guidance released yesterday, the Georgia Department of Revenue said it "will recognize any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat…as eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption."
Let Republican spam be marked spam! Some Republicans want to ban Google and Apple from marking political campaign emails as spam, and they're using the prospect of political bias to garner support for this proposal. "The consultant class of the GOP is pushing the mythology that Google and Apple are flagging their emails because tech companies hate Republicans," notes conservative pundit Erick Erickson. But it's Republican email tactics that are the problem, he suggests.
Republican consultants are blaming Google and Apple for blocking their emails. But when you have a sense of the daily volume, you realize Google and Apple are helping their users while GOP consultants are abusing their email lists. https://t.co/epX3ac4Nix
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 1, 2022
A working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research looks at the short- and long-term effects of minimum wage increases:
We find that in the short run, a large increase in the minimum wage has a small effect on employment and therefore increases the labor income of the workers who were earning less than the new minimum wage. In the long run, however, the minimum wage has perverse distributional implications in that it reduces the employment, income, and welfare of precisely the low-income workers it is meant to help. Nonetheless, these long-run effects take time to fully materialize because firms slowly adjust their mix of inputs. Existing transfer programs, such as the earned income tax credit (EITC), are more effective at improving long-run outcomes for workers at the low end of the wage distribution. But combining existing programs with a modest increase in the minimum wage generates even larger welfare gains for low-earning workers.
You can find the full paper here.
• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) is visiting Taiwan this week, despite warnings against it from Beijing. The trip "is needless and reckless, with obvious downsides and no clear upsides," suggests Bonnie Kristian. "In fact, the best possible result of this visit is maintenance of the status quo. The worst possible result is unspeakably grim."
• Republican Rep. Peter Meijer lost his primary race in Michigan to a candidate that Democrats showered with support precisely because he's a more extreme conservative:
Meijer was one of a few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. This is how Democrats thanked him: by helping a Trumpist to primary him. https://t.co/6ghSkB0m4V
— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) August 3, 2022
• A significant chunk of people's lottery winnings actually go to the government.
• The Bureau of Prisons is under fire for "gross misconduct" at a federal prison in Atlanta.
• The Tax Foundation offers its analysis of the Inflation Reduction Act.
• Notes on our current housing crisis:
A few highlights from today's Census housing vacancy data: the most important takeaway is that we're hitting levels of housing scarcity not seen in recent memory and rents are skyrocketing as a result. https://t.co/NrmmVaEJRZ pic.twitter.com/3ZSiqWutaW
— M. Nolan Gray (@mnolangray) August 2, 2022