May 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

How Democrats plan to turn abortion ballot wins into state-level gains

Illustration of a hand casting a ballot in the shape of a red cross

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats will try to leverage their success with abortion-related ballot measures in down-ballot races in November, according to a memo shared with Axios.

Why it matters: The battle over reproductive freedoms is playing out in the states — and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee seeks to seize on the party's repeated ballot measure wins to create fresh state-level power.

  • "We need to win federally and we need to win in the states, we need to win these ballot measures and we need to build power in state houses, because that is how we are able to be responsive to a really harmful Republican agenda," DLCC president Heather Williams told Axios.

Driving the news: The DLCC memo outlines how they plan on "harnessing the power" of abortion-related measures to expand overall Democratic control in state legislatures.

  • In legislative battlegrounds like Arizona, "ballot measures can help ... define the contrast and the stakes of the elections and help bring voters to the ballot box," per the memo.
  • In battlegrounds where there are no abortion-related ballot measures in play, like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the DLCC is focused on leveraging the power of state legislatures to block any anti-abortion measures that could come up.

Zoom in: In states like Florida and Missouri, where Republicans control the gubernatorial mansions and state legislatures, the DLCC says that ballot measures may be "the best short-term solution to protect rights while also giving us insights into tactics and strategies."

  • The DLCC plans to capitalize on ballot measures in states with Democratic legislative majorities to "cement abortion protections into state constitutions."
  • In these states, like Nevada, the DLCC is eying ballot measures as a way to "boost turnout for competitive races at every level of the ballot."
  • The DLCC has already committed $60 million to the 2024 cycle.

State of play: Democrats have repeatedly won when abortion has been on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

  • More than a dozen states have either approved or are looking to approve ballot questions on abortion ahead of November.
  • Six states have passed abortion-related constitutional amendments since the fall of Roe that have expanded access to the procedure, per the memo.
  • But in two of those states — Ohio and Kansas — Republicans in the state legislatures have sought to roll back the ballot measures to restrict the amendments' implementation.

Go deeper: Where abortion is on the ballot in November

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