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Pro-choice measure a chance to vote values, boost Arizona turn out

What the Devil won't tell you

Pro-choice measure a chance to vote values, boost Arizona turn out

Activists launch push to add protection for abortion rights, contraception to state Constitution

  • Pro-choice backers rally on the University of Arizona campus.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comPro-choice backers rally on the University of Arizona campus.

Women are about to take a 50-year-step backward and more school kids face certain death for one reason.

It's not that Republicans are crazy or that Democrats are feckless, though both are increasingly true.

It's that a fanatical 30 percent of the voters have insisted on state control of women's bodies and limitless firepower for consumers. The sensible supermajority only votes pocketbook issues.

A few strident progressives pitch the slogans "defund the police" or call themselves "Democratic socialists" and the whole Democratic party dives into a bunker.

The entire Republican Party can empower mass murderers and insist women bear rapists' babies and voters shrug. 

The shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade fit hand and glove. Values voters of old have been allowed to warp into something strange and unnerving because a new moral majority refuses to stop them.

It's time for that reasonable two-thirds of voters (assuming that exists) to start voting on social issues, and some Arizona activists are offering up a chance to do just that.

Pro-choice activists — Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom — are gathering signatures to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would guarantee all women the authority over their own pregnancies.

That would force pregnancy rights as a stand-alone issue. It would be roll call. And it could change the game just enough in Arizona this November to make a difference.

Democrats have long believed ballot questions involving pot, payday lending and minimum wage would surge their voters. It hasn't always worked out that way.

What just might do it is a question involving bodily autonomy for 50 percent of the population. There are guys out there, too, who think the "The Handmaid's Tale" is best enjoyed as fiction. A constitutional amendment securing abortion rights is a take-it-or-leave it question that voters can decide independent of candidate or party affiliation.

I'll just say it plain. It may draw apathetic progressives off the sidelines and into the game. And that is the key to the election.

That could be enough to secure a gubernatorial victory for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (assuming she survives her primary). It could be enough to keep Oro Valley whackadoodle Mark Finchem from Hobbs' current post. We don't need a "Stop the Steal" guy running our elections between Oathkeepers meetings. 

The problem, of course, is that the petition backers haven't left themselves a lot of time to get the required 356,000 valid signatures to force the question.

So they probably have to tally 10,000 signatures a day through July 7. It's doable. Illinois came back from 15 down against Arizona in 2005. It ought to be easier than that.

Amending Article II of the state Constitution

The amendment is not a straight up codification of Roe v. Wade, which establishes a continuum of rights based on the trimester of pregnancy. The ballot measure would also secure rights for individuals to practice contraception, make decisions about fertility and sterilization.

It differentiates between pre- and post-viability, which the amendment defines as the fetus having a reasonable likelihood of survival without living on a ventilator.

If Roe were overturned, a state law would take effect banning all abortions after 15 weeks even in cases of rape or incest.

Now, extremists will obviously argue the amendment is what's extreme — not because it is but because they are capable of forming lies in their mouths and setting untruths to paper.  

Extreme? How is it not extreme to tell a woman she must bear her rapist's baby?

Look, I'm never going to give birth, but I was in the room when my daughter was born and watching my girlfriend go through it was an important lesson. What started with "oh, I love you baby, I know it hurts ..." quickly devolved into "better her than me."

Childbirth, I've been reminded, is not a minor medical procedure. It's brutal act with a happy ending if there's a baby eagerly awaited.  Republicans want women to endure hours of active and transitional labor punctuated with geography defying delivery only to look down at the baby and say "oh, he looks just like my assailant."

How is that moral? Or is it that laws against abortion remind men that they are the natural leaders and women's job is to follow?

Voter invigoration

We've learned this much about elections: When the Democratic base turns out, they win. They just have a tendency to celebrate their victory by whining about what they don't get for their effort and pout through the midterms.

Midterms are all about what is called "negative turnout." The two parties slug it out at full-strength during presidential years because the electorate turns out in huge numbers. During midterms, a certain number of voters take a powder. Typically, the party that has the White House sees more their voters take a pass in the midterm. 

Here are the Arizona numbers from the last time Democrats faced a midterm when they held the White House. 

In 2014, Fred DuVal got 42 percent of the vote at the "top of the ticket" as candidate for governor. That translated into 605,025 votes. 

Two years prior, President Barack Obama lost the state with 44 percent of the vote, but took in more than a million votes. Had the Obama voters showed up in the same strength in 2014 as they had in 2012, Doug Ducey would be well on his way to tanking another ice cream business. Gov. DuVal would be finishing up his second term.

At the same time, had Trump voters showed up in the same numbers in 2018 as they had in 2016, Martha McSally would still be a U.S. senator and wouldn't have had to run and lose again in 2020.

Democrats historically are much more variable than Republicans. The Democratic vote can fall by 40 percent. The Republican midterm vote tends to only drop off by a quarter, but that's enough to lose an election in a state that's capable of swinging.

This year, Democrats couldn't be more despondent. Arizona's own Kyrsten Sinema saw to that by assuring the Democratic majority would not deliver on its key promises. Sinema and her West Virginia compadre Joe Manchin are bigger tools of voter suppression than anything cooked up in legislatures across the country.

If it weren't for gerrymandering, which limits the number of swing districts, Democrats would maybe lose 100 seats. This year should be an absolute wipeout for the donkeys.

Unless something changes the dynamic. The U.S. Supreme Court's seemingly imminent immolation of Roe and another mass murder or two might do that.

Not the cool kids

If the high court strikes down the right to an abortion, the question would be decided by elected representatives. One line of thought goes that "whomever favors the popular right would be rewarded and those who oppose it would face oblivion."

Yeah, right. 

Voting an issue versus voting a politician are two different things. 

Democrats must come to terms with and fix the fact that voters who are movable like Republicans more. They prefer the bad boys. I'm not just talking Arizona politics, where Democrats are slightly outnumbered.

Republicans get away with every form of extremism. 

Violent insurrection? Move on. White nationalism (White supremacists insist you call them that now so be P.C.)? Who cares?  QAnon calling for a genocidal "storm" against political opponents? That's just stuff they say like "building a wall" or "there will be no peaceful transition of power." 

Yet polls have shown Republicans winning in the congressional generic ballot. The price of bacon and gas trumps all.

Democrats can't even have an extremist on their phone list without voters suspecting every single one of them wants to cure racism by forcing all kids into gender-affirming surgery.

Dems aggravate this asymmetry by refusing to engage in highly winnable battles because they hire consultants with massive daddy issues — but that's another column.

This party isn't going to inspire anyone so long as Mallory McMurrow remains stuck in the Michigan Legislature.

A ballot question might. Gay marriage measures in 2004 helped George W. Bush win a re-election even after he screwed up the Iraq War and the economy was slow. 

The only other option is for the electorate at large to start setting limits on Republicans. With one obese, orange exception, it hasn't happened yet.

That's why school shootings are tragically normal and women's autonomy is about to be a thing of the past. 

Stay tuned to see how much voters actually care. 

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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