No county was more opposed to abortion amendment than Douglas; a look at other elections stats, including Republicans who voted No
photo by: Journal-World Photos
For today’s Town Talk, let’s do a news and notes election edition:
• While the outcome was clear when we went to press Tuesday night, the total vote count was not for the proposed Kansas constitutional amendment that would have eliminated a constitutional right to an abortion in the state. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office posted complete totals on Wednesday. They are: No, 534,134 votes, or 59%; Yes, 374,611 votes, or 41%. The results don’t become official until Aug. 15, but this didn’t end up being a particularly close race. The results aren’t going to change in any meaningful way, and the Value Them Both supporters of the amendment did concede defeat on Tuesday night.
• No county in the state had a higher percentage of “No” votes than Douglas County. The county went against the amendment by an 81% to 19% margin. There was never a doubt that the amendment was going to lose in a blowout in Douglas County, perhaps the bluest county in the state. However, 81% is a huge margin. To put it in perspective, think about how unpopular Donald Trump was in Douglas County. In his two elections, Trump in Douglas County attracted 28% and 29% of the vote respectively. In other words, this abortion amendment fared about 10 percentage points worse than Trump did. Not many issues can say that in Douglas County.
• Perhaps you are wondering whether there was any county in Kansas so rabidly supportive of the amendment as Douglas County was opposed. Yes, there was. Wallace County — home to Sharon Springs along the Kansas-Colorado border — supported the amendment with 83% Yes votes. But Wallace County is a tiny place. It is the second least populous county in Kansas, and had fewer than 600 voters in the election. That was indicative of how the vote went for the Vote Yes campaign. It won small but lost big, meaning that rural counties with little population went for the amendment while not a single urban county in the state supported it. Here’s a map from the New York Times that shows the breakdown of the vote via county, with blue supporting the amendment and orange rejecting it.
• It is not just that the Vote Yes campaign didn’t win any urban county in the state, but more so that it failed to keep the vote even close in any of those counties. Here’s the breakdown for the five largest counties in the state: Johnson: 68% No vs. 32% Yes; Sedgwick: 58% No vs. 42% Yes; Shawnee: 66% No vs. 34% Yes; Douglas 81% No vs. 19% Yes; Wyandotte: 74% No vs. 26% Yes.
• Another way to look at the difference between large and small counties is that the largest county the Vote Yes group was able to clearly win was McPherson County, which had just under 10,000 voters. The Vote Yes group basically forged a 50/50 split in Butler County — just outside of Wichita — and Reno County, which is home to Hutchinson.
• Another sign of how poorly the amendment did in areas of population is the Kansas River corridor. The Kaw corridor long has been the part of the state that is consistently attracting some population growth. Find the Kansas River on the map, start at Topeka and then look east. Every county east of Topeka that borders the Kansas River voted against the amendment.
• At a more local level, I started to do some deep analysis of the Lawrence and Douglas County results, but then came to my senses. Folks, it was 81% to 19%. There is not a lot to analyze there. The amendment wasn’t popular in any part of the county. There was not one entire precinct in Douglas County where the amendment won. It is worth noting, though, that the Vote No side won by smaller margins in Douglas County’s other three cities, but none of them was a nail biter. Going into the election, I would have guessed that the amendment had a chance to win in Eudora, which historically has leaned more Republican than other parts of the county and has a good number of Catholic residents. There were a good number of Vote Yes signs in Eudora. But Eudora city residents ended up voting No by about a 65% to 35% margin. In Baldwin City, the No vote carried by a 68% to 32% margin. In Lecompton, the No vote won by a 63% to 37% margin.
• Results like those in Eudora show that there were a fair number of Republicans who didn’t vote for this amendment. But the numbers that do a better job of showing that are the statewide totals. The Republican primaries for governor and U.S. Senate give us a good idea of how many Republicans voted in this election. We know there were at least 463,592 Republican voters in the election because that is how many Republican votes were counted for the U.S. Senate race, handily won by incumbent Jerry Moran.
However, we also know that the number of Yes votes for the amendment totaled only 374,611. That means we know that at least 20% of Republicans who went to the polls did not vote for this amendment. In reality, the number is higher because we know not every Yes vote on the amendment came from Republicans. There were unaffiliated voters who voted Yes, and even some Democrats. It will take someone smarter than me to figure out how many Republicans defected from the Vote Yes campaign, but it is clear the percentage was significant.
• As for other races, there were no surprises in the two gubernatorial primaries. Both Gov. Laura Kelly and Derek Schmidt — the Kansas attorney general who is seeking to become governor — had opponents. But neither opponent ran a robust campaign, and Schmidt and Kelly sailed to victory in the primary. But there was perhaps a hint of unpleasant odor in the wind as Schmidt sailed to his victory. His opponent — Arlyn Briggs — picked up 19% of the vote. It is worth noting that in the U.S. Senate race, Moran’s opponent — who also did not run a serious campaign — picked up 19% of the vote. There appears to be a not insignificant portion of the Republican base that doesn’t like the establishment candidates. The outliers probably will matter a lot more in the governor’s race than the Senate race. That’s because the governor’s race likely will have three active candidates on the ballot, as state Sen. Dennis Pyle announced earlier this week that he had collected enough petition signatures to qualify as an independent candidate for the governor’s race. Pyle will run to the right of Schmidt, meaning he is more likely to siphon votes from Schmidt than from Kelly. Kelly had to be pleased enough that her Democratic base stayed together. She lost only 6% of the vote to her challenger.
• There indeed is one close statewide race that is still in doubt following the election. The Republican primary for state treasurer is nearly a tie. Steven Johnson has a 765-vote lead over Caryn Tyson. That was a bitter race between two Republicans trying to take a statewide office currently held by a Democrat.