Swing state ballots reshaped by abortion measures

Signature collectors in Arizona and Nevada said they are on track to qualify for the November election.
Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022, after the Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Supporters of proposed constitutional amendments to guarantee abortion access in Nevada and Arizona announced they’re likely to gain ballot access in November, just after the Florida Supreme Court said it would allow a similar initiative to appear on the ballot there.

The developments in three key states in recent days all but guarantee that reproductive rights will play a central role in the presidential election and down-ballot contests, potentially giving Democrats an edge on an issue that has galvanized voters since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“There’s no question that when abortion rights are on the ballot, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike turn out to vote to protect their freedoms,” Lauryn Fanguen, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement Monday.

President Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by narrow margins in Arizona and Nevada in 2020, while Trump carried Florida by just more than 3 percentage points. Abortion could prove to be a driving turnout force and tip the scales in these states in a rematch that polls have shown voters are unenthusiastic about.

The Florida ballot measure decision was issued on the same day that the court said it would allow a 6-week abortion ban to go into effect in the state. The court also allowed a separate ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana, an issue that has driven Democratic voters in other states.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, have recently issued directives advising candidates not to shy away from reproductive rights in their messaging, a shift after many GOP candidates were criticized for appearing to avoid the issue in 2022.

Supporters of the Nevada constitutional amendment said they collected more than 110,000 signatures over the past six weeks. The group must collect 102,362 valid signatures — including nearly 26,000 from each of the state’s four congressional districts — by June 26.

“We are overwhelmed by Nevadans’ enthusiasm for protecting our reproductive rights and by the eagerness that voters across the political spectrum have shown for our petition,” Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom President Lindsey Harmon said in a statement.

Supporters of an Arizona version of the law have collected 500,000 signatures ahead of their July deadline, more than the 383,923 valid signatures they need.

Arizona is one of nine states on the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s 2024 target map. In a March memo, the party’s main state legislative campaign arm said it would focus on Republican attempts to ban abortion and curb other reproductive rights, including Arizona Republicans’ attempts to pass “fetal personhood” laws.

Republicans control narrow majorities in the House and Senate, where they have blocked many Gov. Katie Hobbs’s (D) priorities.

Abortion has proved a winning issue for Democrats in multiple elections since the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion.

Since then, supporters of abortion rights have prevailed in ballot measures in seven states: California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, and Ohio. And polling has consistently shown that the majority of Americans oppose the Dobbs decision and support at least some abortion rights.

Abortion is legal in Nevada up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but reproductive rights advocates have warned that those protections could be undone by future Republican administrations unless they are enshrined in the state constitution. In Arizona, the procedure is legal for up to 15 weeks gestation, with no exceptions for rape and incest. But the state Supreme Court is considering whether to reinstate a near-total ban from 1864.