It isn’t often that a U.S. Supreme Court decision has such an immediate impact on the American population. But this summer, when the nation’s highest court reversed itself on the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion rights, it upended what had been considered “settled precedent” for women’s reproductive health. What this means for the November 8, 2022 General Election that is 19 days away is still unclear, but there are some indicators.
Almost immediately, voter registration began to rise all across the country. Colorado voter registration followed this national trend, and led to an uptick in Colorado’s voter registration, particularly among women.
The withdrawal of a Constitutional right from half the population of the country has signaled the dramatic shift of the Supreme Court from cautious rulings to an activist conservatism that is out-of-step with the population. Public polls regarding whether access to reproductive care including legal abortions is supported reveal a court out-of-step with what the people think on this issue.
In fact, a Pew Research poll shows that six in ten Americans, more than 61 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Some 37 percent think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. These views are relatively unchanged in the past few years.
But almost immediately after the court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision was leaked last May, leaving it to the states to decide the parameters of their abortion statutes, voter registration began to surge. The decision came out on June 24, 2022. In August 2022, Kansas voters, by a big margin, voted down an amendment that would have stripped residents of the right to an abortion.
It was notable that the Kansas vote (59 percent against and 41 for the amendment), is almost a direct mirror of the recent 2020 Colorado Proposition 115 vote. If that had passed would have banned abortions after 22 weeks gestation. That 2020 ballot question loss was also 59 percent against– 41 percent for; an 18-point spread. The people’s wishes were clear.
Voter registration Trends Show Gains in Women Registering
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, voter registration in Colorado has risen, and women have led the surge. The surge has been particularly strong in three Colorado congressional districts: CD2, which includes Boulder; CD5, which covers Colorado Springs; and, the battleground CD7, which includes Jefferson County and parts of Douglas County, as well as Golden, Lakewood, Arvada and Broomfield, along with the central Colorado counties of Jefferson, Park, Teller, Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, and Custer.
In 2014 Colorado voter registration actually declined among women, so this is a marked contrast. Then in 2018, voter registrations by women was only slightly higher. This year’s court decision would appear to be a motivating factor, but it might not be the only one. The Supreme Court has continued its conservative activism, handing down decisions that offer more gun rights protections, and further weaken the 1965 landmark Civil Rights Act.
Here in Chaffee County, this trend has not been noticeable. According to Chaffee Clerk and Recorders Office data from August 1 to October 1, 2022, the numbers are up, but no more than normal. What is noticeable is that there are more women than men registered to vote in Chaffee County:
August 1, 2022
September 1, 2022
October 1, 2022
“The numbers seem to be in line for what we usually see. We have automatic voter registration,” said Chaffee Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell.
Not that a rise in registrations is unusual in the few weeks before general elections. “We always see more registration in the period leading up to an election. They get notified and they double-check,” she added.
Ballots are in the mail and have already begun arriving in mailboxes. What happens next is now up to registered voters.
Featured image: Marchers gather at Riverside Park on June 26. 2022 in protest against the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Daniel Flanders photo.