Opinion | Meet some of the pro-abortion-rights Kansans who stunned the nation

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We should not read too much into Kansas voters’ surprisingly lopsided rejection last week of an amendment that would have declared that the state’s constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion. After all, this is one result in a single state — fewer than 1 million people voted.

But I do think the results in Kansas have an important message for all of America: Even if the country’s elected officials and activists are clearly split into a Team Blue largely unified around one set of views and a Team Red with opposing ones, the nation’s voters are more complicated.

The ballot initiative, which would have cleared the way for Kansas Republicans to pass a near-total ban on abortion, failed because many unaffiliated and Republican voters opposed it. This wasn’t just a story of Democrats outvoting Republicans. Significantly more Kansans are registered Republicans (about 850,000) than Democrats (500,000). And turnout among Democrats (about 57 percent) last week was only slightly higher than for Republicans (55 percent). If the only people who voted on the initiative had been registered Democrats and registered Republicans, and they all voted with their leadership’s position, it would have passed by a 62-38 margin.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, around 170,000 people who did not participate in the partisan primaries voted on the abortion question. (It’s likely most of them are registered as unaffiliated and therefore can’t vote in party primaries.) This outcome — tens of thousands of people in Kansas who won’t join the Democratic Party turning out in August to vote in favor of abortion rights — was far from obvious, and that’s why many political experts, including me, were stunned by the result.

That said, this result didn’t come from nowhere. About 30 percent of American adults are Republicans, about 30 percent Democrats, and around 40 percent independents. Kansas’ electorate is more Republican (44 percent) and less Democratic (26 percent) than the nation overall but also includes a big bloc of unaffiliated voters (29 percent). Some independents are people who don’t follow politics closely and have fairly undefined views. But most consistently vote for one party or the other. And even if they don’t, many have strongly held views on particular issues.

Ruth Marcus: Why I fear Indiana, not Kansas, charts the future of abortion rights in America

One such voter is Tyler Dillman, 32, who lives near Kansas City. “I don’t feel like any party accurately reflects my ideology. I’m ‘conservative’ on topics like immigration, national security, and economics, but more ‘liberal’ on education, gay rights, and health care, and find myself in the middle on many other social issues,” Dillman, who works at a higher-education research firm, told me in an email.

But he felt strongly about taking the pro-abortion rights stand on this ballot measure.

“The Dobbs decision was a watershed moment for me,” Dillman wrote. “Previous attempts to ban abortion, or significantly curtail it, always felt like political posturing, because…



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