That’s the unexpected and consequential lesson from Tuesday’s Kansas primary.
Lawmakers in Kansas have asked voters to change the state constitution, which protects the right to abortion, and give them permission to pass new laws restricting or banning abortions. Voters resoundingly I said no.
“We found common ground among diverse voters and mobilized people across the political spectrum to vote no,” said Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which organized against the amendment.
Kansas’ main question was a different one, about whether legislatures should have the power to regulate abortion rights. But it was the first time abortion was directly on a US ballot since the Supreme Court stripped women of the federally guaranteed right to an abortion they had grown accustomed to in the nearly 50 years since Roe V. Wade.
The turnout in Kansas was incredible. It’s August before the midterm elections and yet more than double the usual number of voters showed up.
In fact, turnout — more than 900,000 people participated in the primary — was on par with recent midterm general elections. It was approaching presidential election levels — 1.2 million Kansans voted in 2016 and 1.3 million voted in 2020.
CNN’s Harry Eden interpreted what we know about the turnout figures and found that more than 150,000 people likely turned out to vote on the abortion amendment alone, suggesting that it did motivate many voters.
The result is a glimmer of hope for Democrats. They want to use the abortion issue to drive voters to the polls in November, when control of the House and Senate is on the line.
But abortion is not on most November ballots. The problem may end up being that, unlike in the Kansas primary, a direct abortion question will not be on every voter’s ballot.
“This was actually abortion on the ballot,” CNN political director David Chalian told “Inside Politics” on Wednesday. “So we have to see if that holds true in the context of the general election.”
But surely the Democrats will try to make this a top issue.
“Right now, every Democratic politician on the ballot, their strategists are telling them, if you’re in a battleground state and you’re trying to win back some of those suburban independent voters who were pushed away by Donald Trump in ’18 and ’20. abortion rights front and center in your campaign.”
Key question in key government races. He will also be involved in key gubernatorial races, such as in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and especially in Michigan, where the Democratic governor is fighting to retain her seat. Governors can be a bulwark against GOP-dominated legislatures.
Where abortion may have less impact as an issue. In parts of the country like Kansas, where Republicans hold majorities in congressional delegations, it’s far from clear that Republicans who support abortion rights will defect to Democrats. In fact, there are some indications that they won’t.
But he adds that opposition to the decision may not necessarily translate into a vote in November. The same survey finds that Democrats (62%) are less likely than Republicans (74%) to say they are confident they will vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
What more voters are likely to list as a top priority is the economy. And this is an area where Democrats will have to explain why gas prices have been slow to fall and why inflation continues to drive up the cost of everyday goods for Americans.
More data from Tuesday’s primary:
- It was a big night for election naysayers, particularly in Arizona.
- A Republican who voted to impeach Trump was defeated in his primary race in Michigan by an election denialist helped by Democrats.
- Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, one of two “Ericks” who received Trump’s last-minute endorsement, was unable to overcome past scandals to win the GOP Senate nomination.