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Will Abortion Access Turn The Republican Tide?
South Dakota’s Democratic Party Could See Landslide Victories in The Following Elections

South Dakota Democrats appear to be using a multi-pronged strategic approach for winning the November general election. Gubernatorial candidate, Jamie Smith is running on Medicaid Expansion, and access to abortion services. Medicaid expansion will be on this November's ballot via initiative petition, and it appears access to abortion will soon follow.

On August 24, 2022, James Leach Attorney for Dakotans For Health, filed an Initiative Petition with the Secretary of State, on behalf of the group, this time for access to abortion in the state. Dakotans for Health is the same group running the Medicaid Expansion measure, and run by former Democratic U.S Senate candidate Rick Weiland. Weiland is a major player in the South Dakota Democratic Party, and has worked for years to flip South Dakota from red to blue. Going into this next election, Weiland might just see his work coming to fruition.

In 2006 the Republican-led legislature passed an abortion ban, signed by then Gov. Mike Rounds. The issue was challenged by referendum, a process that refers the issue to voters. The voters overturned the legislature's abortion ban by 56-44, by 2008 the voters overturned another attempt at banning abortion by 55-45. A margin that might not seem that impressive, however, it shows that the political dynamics in the state are changing.

During the last primary, the legislature proposed Amendment C, a measure that would have required 60% of voters who show up at the polls to agree to tax increases. This time, the voters shot it down by a wide margin of 67 percent, sending shock waves through the establishment party.

Republicans, perhaps feeling overly confident, were outspent and
out advertised by money from out-of-state groups, like the National Teachers Association. Advertising was strategic, well crafted, and geared towards non-affiliated voters, airing on social media and multiple streaming platforms to a younger audience.

Republicans, who were previously picking up mid-left, and centrist-voters due to vaccine mandates, have now lost that momentum after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade to the states. A fear over rights to bodily autonomy, appears to be driving political strategy today as non-affiliated voters and democratic voters combined, outnumber republicans in the state of South Dakota.

In a statement to Kelo News, Weiland divulges the impact of that combined voting block.

“I think that the voters have demonstrated time and time again, most recently with their rejection of the legislature’s effort to put a minority rule amendment on the primary ballot,” Weiland said. “And Amendment C was rejected by 67%. I think that says a lot about the people of South Dakota and how much they have come to appreciate the opportunity to exercise a more direct approach to public policy.”



It's also clear that the Democratic party is closely eying results from Kansas, a red state that recently defeated an abortion ban at the ballot, by a landslide. “I am optimistic that the voters are going to weigh in, and that they will turn out like they did in Kansas,” Weiland said. “But with a Supreme Court’s decision, you know, the people of South Dakota are gonna have a chance to weigh in, and I think that’s the way it should be.”

The abortion ban wasn't just defeated in Kansas however, it also turned out a record high percent of Democratic voters during a primary election.

In Kansas’ 2018 primary, 473,000 people voted for governor, which equates to a 26% turnout. During the Kansas primary, on the other hand, turnout swelled to 750,000 for governor, which equates to a 39% turnout. From a partisan turnout perspective, Democratic turnout increased 81% relative to the 2018 primary, while Republican turnout only increased by 48%.

Pundits and political analysts are calling this a "blue wave." CNN reported about the defeat, “a thunderclap victory on abortion rights in Kansas gives Democrats a potent midterm issue.”

According to Ring of Fire a show on The Young Turks, the Kansas primary results are a clear indication that an overwhelming majority of republican, and non-affiliated voters, disagree with banning abortion.

While some within the republican party argue that "it was just a blip," democrats don't seem to agree. Amidst a fractured SD republican base, should the abortion issue turn out typically dormant non-affiliated and centrist voters, for the democratic party, democrats could flip the red state of South Dakota blue, over the next two years.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor and Health Policy Journalist for The Dakota Leader

Post Date: 2022-08-29 08:16:42Last Update: 2022-08-28 22:19:50


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