Kansas is holding its first test of US voters’ feelings about the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wadewith people across the state deciding Tuesday whether to allow their conservative legislature to further restrict or ban abortion.
The referendum on the proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution is being watched closely as a barometer of the anger of liberal and moderate voters over the June ruling that struck down abortion rights at national But the result may not reflect broader sentiment across the country, given how conservative Kansas is and twice as many Republicans as Democrats have voted in August primaries over the past decade.
Supporters of the measure would not say before the vote whether they intend to pursue a ban if it passes, but they have spent decades pushing for new restrictions almost annually, and many other Midwestern and Southern states have banned abortion in the last weeks By not declaring their position, they sought to win over voters who favored some restrictions but not an outright ban.
Abortion rights advocates hope the legislature will ban abortion if the ballot measure passes, and in a surge in early voting, the electorate was more Democratic than usual. Chandler Alton, a 28-year-old physical therapist from Overland Park, voted against the abortion measure on Tuesday.
“Abortion is health care and the government should have no say in whether women receive what could be life-saving care,” Alton said, adding that in the future he would vote for candidates who “would not that kind of thing.” to pass.”
Secretary of State Scott Schwab said statewide voter turnout was significantly higher than expected late in the evening and appeared to be “within range” of reaching 50 percent. That would be the kind of turnout generally seen in November midterm elections in Kansas, which have averaged 52 percent over the past 20 years.
Primary elections in Kansas are usually limited to the two major parties, but unaffiliated voters can vote in these elections for the constitutional amendment. “I’m actually pretty pleased that everything is going as well as it is for as busy as it is,” Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Michael Abbott said.
Stephanie Kostreva, a 40-year-old school nurse from Olathe and a Democrat, said she voted yes on the measure because she is a Christian and believes life begins at conception. “I’m not full-scale that there should never be an abortion,” she said. “I know there are medical emergencies and when the mother’s life is in danger there is no reason for two people to die.”
An anonymous group that sent a misleading text to Kansas voters telling them to “vote yes” to protect the election was suspended Monday afternoon from messaging platform Twilio, disabling its ability to send new messages, Twilio spokesman Cris Paden said in an email. Twilio, without publicly identifying the sender, said it determined the account violated its acceptable use policy that prohibits the spread of misinformation.
The text reached voters across the state, including former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Davis Hammet, a voting rights advocate who received a text message Monday afternoon, said the message appeared to be aimed at Democrats who had not yet voted. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the leading “vote no” campaign, called the text an example of “desperate and deceptive tactics.”
The Kansas Secretary of State’s office said it has received phone calls about the texts from the general public and “acknowledges their concerns. However, state law does not authorize the office to regulate campaign ads or messages.” . The Kansas Commission on Governmental Ethics also tweeted that under current law, text message advocacy on constitutional ballot initiatives does not require attribution.
The Kansas measure would add language to the state constitution saying it does not grant the right to abortion, allowing lawmakers to regulate it as they see fit. Kentucky will vote in November to add similar language to its constitution. Meanwhile, Vermont will decide in November whether to add an abortion rights provision to its constitution. A similar question is likely to head to the November ballot in Michigan.
The Kansas measure is a response to a state Supreme Court decision in 2019 that declared access to abortion a matter of bodily autonomy and a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights. The two parties together have spent more than $14 million on their campaigns. Abortion providers and abortion rights groups were key donors to the “no” campaign, while Catholic dioceses heavily funded the “yes” campaign. While some early voters favor banning nearly all abortions, the yes campaign pitched their measure as a way to restore lawmakers’ power to set “reasonable” abortion limits and preserve existing restrictions.
Kansas does not prohibit most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy. But a law that would ban the most common second-trimester procedure and another that would establish special health regulations for abortion providers remain on hold due to legal challenges. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre weighed in on the Kansas vote Monday, saying, “If passed, tomorrow’s vote in Kansas could lead to another state eliminating the right to choose and gut access to health care.
“The Republican-controlled Legislature has had anti-abortion majorities since the early 1990s. Kansas has not gone further in restricting abortion because abortion opponents have felt constrained by past federal court decisions or because the governor was a Democrat, such as Gov. Laura Kelly, who was elected in 2018