Kansas abortion vote shows limits of GOP’s strength


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An increase in turnout among Democrats and independents and a notable shift in Republican-leaning counties contributed to the overwhelming support of abortion rights last week in traditionally conservative Kansas, according to a detailed Associated Press analysis of the voting results.

A proposed state constitutional amendment would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten restrictions or ban abortions outright. But Kansas voters rejected the measure by nearly 20 percentage points, almost a mirror of Republican Donald Trump’s statewide margin over Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to repeal a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the threat of new restrictions in the state galvanized Democrats and independents more than anticipated. At the same time, Republicans showed less interest in turning out to support the measure.

The findings reinforce a sense in both parties that the Supreme Court’s decision may have altered the dynamics of this year’s midterm elections. Here’s how it played out:

‘OVERPLAYED THEIR HAND’

In 2020, Trump carried Kansas by 18 points. Last week, not a single county in the state favored the ballot measure as much as it had supported the former president, the AP found.

In 99 of the state’s 105 counties, support for the abortion measure was more than 10 percentage points lower than its support for Trump against Biden. In 29 of those counties, that difference was more than 20 points.

And in 14 Kansas counties that Trump won, majorities rejected the amendment.

“The anti-abortion politicians have just overplayed their hand on these bans,” said Tamarra Wieder, director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates in Kentucky, where another abortion measure will be on the ballot in November.

The Kansas county with the largest drop from the presidential election to the abortion referendum was Greenwood, in rural southeast Kansas. Trump won nearly 80% of the vote there in 2020, but there was about a 30-point shift on abortion, with voters narrowly favoring “no,” the position that leaves abortion rights in place for women in Kansas.

Beyond counties that flipped entirely, dozens of deeply Republican counties saw voters favor the abortion amendment as expected, but by much narrower margins than their preference for Trump two years ago. Near Topeka, for example, 72% of voters in Pottawatomie County backed the former president’s re-election, while just 57% supported the amendment.

Abortion opponents said they were stunned by the margin of the results.

“I was surprised for sure,” said Ruth Tisdale, executive director of the Advice and Aid Pregnancy Center. “I thought that it would be a closer outcome either way. I didn’t have a strong sense of whether it would pass or not, but I thought that it would be closer, you know, 51 to 49 kind of thing. … It was very sad.”

HUGE TURNOUT, SURGE OF INDEPENDENTS

It wasn’t just the amendment’s margin of defeat that jolted the political consciousness. It was also the seam-busting turnout in what otherwise should have been a normal, low-turnout…



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