More women are registering to vote after the Supreme Court’s decision to abort
Democratic strategist and pollster Tom Bonnier has never experienced anything like this in his 28 years of analyzing elections.
“We’re seeing women get involved in politics at a greater rate than I’ve seen before,” he says.
In the month since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion, the number of women registered to vote in the November midterm elections rose 35% in the 10 states that share voter registration data, according to a New York Times analysis.
Those states include Kansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Idaho, Alabama, New Mexico and Maine.
Bonnier says the data shows women outnumber men in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where reproductive rights are at risk.
Michigan voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to include protections for access to abortion. In Wisconsin, an 1849 law banning nearly all abortions, which went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, is working its way through the courts.
But will any of these increased recordings turn into actual sounds?
“We’re starting to see this pivot in voter turnout and election participation, first, in the special elections, in these primary elections. And now we’re starting to get early data from the general elections,” Bonnier says. “With mail-in ballots and that sort of thing, we’re seeing this theme continue with women participating at a much higher rate than in previous midterm elections and more than men, for the most part, in this election.”
Historically, the president’s party has lost seats in Congress during midterm elections, and there was early talk of a “red wave” to the Republicans. But as the midterm approaches, analysts debate whether the issue of abortion rights will upset political traditions.
says Samuel Abrams, professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “We used to have predictive models. We don’t have good models that predict this now. It’s just so messy.”
The first test for reproductive rights after the Kansas Supreme Court ruling occurred in August. Fifty-nine percent of Kansans voted to preserve abortion access in the staunch Republican state, dispelling the notion that abortion rights matter only to liberal Democratic voters.
“There are pro-choice Republicans,” Bonnier says. “But there are also Republicans who may not personally be pro-choice, but who were against the idea of government taking away an established right.” “Even if it really is that they’re not going to take advantage of themselves, there’s a level of unease about that, and I think that’s why you’ve seen a lot of Republicans get galvanized on this issue as well.”
But Kansans voted in a referendum and were not forced to choose between Democrats and Republicans. The test in November will be whether large numbers of Republicans feel strong enough about abortion rights to cross party lines.
“I don’t think it will be that strong… I guess [Supreme Court] Abrams says the decision is old enough that the intensity has changed. There is still a lot of change. We have no idea what will happen with Putin. We have no idea what will happen with North Korea. We have no idea about international monetary stuff. We have no idea about climate matters.”
Amanda Hunter, who leads the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a nonpartisan group working to advance women’s representation in American politics, says that even before the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights, women were already feeling that the political stakes were high.
“Especially because the pandemic has exposed cracks in women’s social systems. A lot of things that women didn’t think about or take for granted, like childcare, like the public school system…all turned upside down,” Hunter says.
“Women who might have previously thought, ‘I’m not political, I don’t care about politics,’ suddenly realized that politics was showing up at their front door. And so, it seems, in the last couple of years, women have felt a personal stake in a lot of these decisions. And certainly, the Dobbs decision.” Very personal to a lot of women, since it directly affects women’s reproductive decisions.”
Abrams believes the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion would have spurred more voters if it had occurred closer to Election Day.
“One thing to really remember, and I say this all the time, is that a week is an eternity in politics, and as such, we have some time until November,” he says.
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