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Kansas Nope

The ballot initiative in Kansas illustrates vividly why the idea that leaving abortion rights to the state legislators is a naïve and undemocratic idea. For those of you not following along, back in 2019, the state Supreme Court agreed with an amendment to the state constitution that protected the right to abortion. It was a sort of reverse trigger law. The ballot initiative yesterday asked whether Kansans wanted to do away with the amendment and allow the state legislature enact new laws regulating abortion.

Kansas, which at one time recently was the subject of a book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”, was the belwether warning us what could happen when extremism in Republican politics moves into a state. The state legislature is 2:1 Republican. Interestingly, they have a Democratic governor. I’m beginning to see THAT as the real indicator of public sentiment on abortion. Voters might not be able to do anything about how the state legislative seats are allocated but more densely populated cities can elect statewide offices. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Kansas state legislature crafted the ballot initiative in such a way that it would have the best opportunity to pass. The sneaky tactics included voting for it on a primary day in August instead of November. The idea was that voter turnout was expected to be a low 38% and since most Democrats were running unopposed, the primary should have pulled in mostly Republican voters.

The wording of the initiative was as confusing as date rape where yes meant no and no meant yes. A No vote meant that the voters wanted to keep the amendment. A yes vote meant that the voters preferred the legislature to regulate abortion. The Republicans were breathtaking in their disinformation campaigns spending $10 million dollars on ads that muddled the issue even further.

Then there was a new law that makes it a felony to impersonate an election official. This is one of those maniacally important election integrity laws that is intended to scare people into not running voting registration drives. Everyone knows they’re not election officials but do they really want to take that risk of going to jail for going into high schools and churches to sign people up?

But in spite of all that, in fact, maybe because of all that, voters turned out in crazy numbers. The No vote won by almost 20 points. It might have won by more if the legislature skullduggery didn’t have some impact.

I imagine the state legislature scratching its head today like the Grinch hearing Wahoo Dorus in Whoville on Christmas morning. It tried every sneaky thing it could think of to trick Kansans into gutting their own rights in a presumably red state that went for Trump by gobs and gobs of deluded red state votes. The presidential election went 56% to 41% for Trump in 2020 and this ballot initiative was almost completely the opposite.

That means there were probably a lot of Republicans who voted No. Oooo, that’s not good. That’s a completely different bellwether.

“It came without bobbles, buttons or bows.”

Maybe it was because a 10 year old rape victim couldn’t get an abortion in Ohio. Maybe it was because of all the accounts coming out of Texas and Missouri where women have to be minutes from dying before they can get abortions that would save their lives because doctors are terrified they could lose their license to practice medicine. Maybe it was because Kansans in cities looked around at their only options and decided they didn’t want to be stranded out on the prairie and have to travel all the way to Colorado or Illinois. Maybe Republican women who are now pillars of the community remembered that abortion they had when they were second year college students. I’ll leave it to the 538 data scientists to sort it all out.

There’s one thing I do know for sure. The state legislature and the militant anti-choice, pro-forced motherhood brigade are hardly going to let a speed bump like this stand in their way of making sure women suffer punishment of biblical proportions for being human and opening their legs. No. They will find some new, diabolical scheme that will make sure they get control of every female who dares to have the same bodily autonomy as their male counterparts.

I don’t know how they’re going to do it but if I were Kansans who voted No, I’d be very vigilant. They might consider voting No on their local state legislator running for office. Republicans currently have a 2:1 advantage in the legislature and the governor is up for re-election in November. Do they really want to swap out Democrat Kelly for Republican Schmidt?

Maybe Kansas is starting to recover from its fever dream. Maybe reversing Roe was the thing that will make Kansans re-evaluate their commitment to Trumpism or extreme conservatism in general. Maybe Republican women don’t actually prefer being second class citizens in their own country with no say in their healthcare or parenthood decisions. Maybe Dobbs has created a whole new category of single issue voter.

Maybe Republican politicians nationwide should think about that.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.