Many rural Republicans rejected Kansas abortion measure

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On Tuesday Kansans turned out in record numbers to reject, by a 3 to 2 margin, a ballot measure that would have negated a court decision that found a right to abortion in the state constitution. “In a state where Republicans far outnumber Democrats, Kansans delivered a clear message in the first major vote testing the potency of abortion politics since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade: Abortion opponents are going too far,” Katie Glueck and Shane Goldmacher report for The New York Times.

Many Republicans and rural residents rejected the proposed constitutional amendment. “Despite red-and-blue maps suggesting that the political fault line of our era runs between urban and rural areas, much of the countryside joined cities like Wichita and Kansas City in voting down the amendment,” native Kansan Sara Smarsh writes for the Times. “Fourteen Kansas counties that went for Mr. Trump in the 2020 presidential election, as well as all five that went for Joe Biden, saw majority votes against the amendment. Even in counties where most voted yes, sizable numbers voted no.”

More than 463,000 Republicans voted in the U.S. Senate race and more than 451,000 in the gubernatorial race, but the amendment only got around 375,000 votes; that means Republicans who showed up to vote for the other races either voted against the amendment or left it blank. Kansas has a closed primary, but all registered voters could vote on the amendment.

Some conservatives said they rejected the amendment because they remembered how dangerous it was for women before abortion was legal. Another possible reason: “Abortion-rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans,” Mitch Smith, Lauren Fox and Elizabeth Dias report for the Times.

Opponents of a similar amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot in Kentucky were encouraged by the Kansas result, Kentucky Health News reports, and a Times analysis estimated that 53% of Kentucky voters would support abortion rights in the referendum. The Times made estimates for every state.

More broadly, “Both Republicans and Democrats caution against conflating the results of an up-or-down ballot question with how Americans will vote in November, when they will be weighing a long list of issues, personalities and their views of Democratic control of Washington,” Glueck and Goldmacher report.

However, “a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this week showed that the issue of abortion access had become more salient for women 18 to 49 years old, with a 14-percentage-point jump since February for those who say it will be very important to their vote in midterm elections, up to 73%. That is roughly equal to the share of voters overall who said inflation would be very important this fall — and a sign of how animating abortion has become for many women.”

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Cross-posted from the Rural Blog.

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