There is a ballot initiative on track to go before New York voters next fall that, if approved, would codify abortion access and several other things, including LGBTQ rights, into the state constitution. While it is jarring to imagine a world in which such a protection would be necessary in very blue New York, it falls in line with efforts in other blue and purple — and even some red — states post-Dobbs, as the rogue Supreme Court signals that other privacy-related rights may also be at risk.
But New York Democrats are also taking political lessons from other states that have witnessed the energizing power of abortion for the party in elections since Roe’s overturning and are viewing the ballot measure as a tool to boost Democrats’ chances of retaking the House.
A coalition of left-leaning groups led by the New Yorkers for Equal Rights collectively pledged $20 million to support the ballot initiative efforts on Thursday. Other members of the coalition include the NAACP of New York and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, according to Politico. New Yorkers for Equal Rights said the groups were inspired by the success Michigan Democrats saw in the midterms when voters were presented with a ballot initiative that would codify abortion rights into the state constitution. The amendment passed, Democrats secured a trifecta for the first time in four decades and many vulnerable Democrats held onto their seats.
“We’ve learned a ton from our colleagues around the country, including our colleagues in Michigan,” campaign director for New Yorkers for Equal Rights Sasha Neha Ahuja told Politico. “It was incredibly successful, and similar to New York in that there was support for this ballot measure across party lines. It was really popular for candidates to stand with and encourage people to vote yes on the referendum.”
The group believes the ballot measure could bring about a similar scenario in New York where energized turnout in support of the measure could also help Democrats win back some key swing districts currently held by Republicans (like, Rep. George Santos’ seat, for example) and boost efforts to retake the House.
In a memo explaining the investment, the groups spelled out that plan rather explicitly as a key prong of its goals for the funding:
2. Unite independent, moderate and liberal voters with women voters and voters of color in the areas that saw a decline in Democratic performance between 2020 and 2022, particularly in the New York City region and in Westchester, Ulster, Albany, and Tompkins counties.
3. Aggressively reaching out to voters across the political spectrum in Nassau, Suffolk, Erie, Onondaga, Monroe, and several Hudson Valley counties, most notably Rockland, to reverse declines from 2022.
While the effort has taken some time to catch on, Democrats may actually be embracing the edge they hold when it comes to public opinion on abortion heading into 2024.
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