NM saw uptick in new female voters after abortion ruling - Albuquerque Journal

NM saw uptick in new female voters after abortion ruling

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – After a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to ban abortion was published in May, New Mexico saw women between ages 21 to 60 register to vote at a higher clip than men for three successive months.

While voter registration numbers typically tend to swell during summer months as political campaigns work to win over new voters, the gender-based trend suggests the court ruling overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision might be motivating some female New Mexico voters.

Other states also saw a spike in newly registered women voters this summer, and a longtime state political observer said the Supreme Court ruling could end up mobilizing Democratic voters in an election cycle that was initially predicted to favor Republican candidates.

“It does look like there may have been mobilization across age groups,” said Lonna Atkeson, a former University of New Mexico political science professor who now works in Florida but still tracks New Mexico election data.

Specifically, Atkeson cited the spike in new voter registrations among women in their 40s and 50s – there were 5,520 women in those age categories who signed up to vote from June through August, compared to 4,841 men who registered during the same time period, according to Secretary of State’s Office data.

“Those are women who came of age when abortion was a huge issue,” said Atkeson, who added women generally lean more Democratic than men and tend to make up a larger slice of the state’s overall voting population.

Of course, some of the newly registered female voters could be Republicans who are motivated to vote in the November general election for the opposite reason.

The month-by-month breakdown of new voters provided by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office to the Journal broke down voters by age and gender – but not by political affiliation.

And, interestingly, young men between the ages of 17 to 20 have been registering to vote at a greater rate than females in that same age range during every month this year, according to the data.

However, there are national signs the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling could be galvanizing Democratic voters.

Last month, voters in Kansas rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have said there was no right to an abortion in the state.

In New Mexico, a recent Journal Poll of likely general election voters found 35% of voters believe abortion should always be legal and 22% said the procedure should be legal with some limitations.

Twenty-five percent said it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger and 12% of voters surveyed in the poll said abortion should always be illegal. The remaining voters had different views on the issue or declined to say.

Abortion on the ballot

Abortion has emerged as a hot-button issue in this year’s election cycle – both in New Mexico and nationally – after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June.

While Texas and other neighboring states have enacted abortion bans, New Mexico continues to allow abortion services without any restrictions since state lawmakers in 2021 passed legislation – signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham – repealing a long-dormant 1969 abortion ban.

With New Mexico seeing an influx of out-of-state residents traveling to within its borders to obtain abortion services, the Democratic governor also issued an executive order in June aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers from lawsuits and arrest warrants issued in other states.

Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti, Lujan Grisham’s primary rival in this year’s race for governor, said after the Supreme Court ruling was announced he would support banning abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and in pregnancies that put a woman’s life at risk.

Both Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti have blasted each other for holding “extreme” views on abortion, as Ronchetti has claimed the governor’s opposition to abortion restrictions puts her out of touch with New Mexico voters.

But Democrats have seized on comments made by Steve Smothermon, senior pastor of Legacy Church in Albuquerque, who said in a July 10 sermon that Ronchetti had told him he believes pushing for a total abortion ban would keep him from getting elected, so he’s starting with a less-expansive proposal.

Voter statistics in NM

Alex Curtas, the spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said it’s difficult to tell whether the increase in women voters registrations is due to the Supreme Court ruling.

“Campaigns are very active during the summers before elections talking to and registering voters, so we do normally see spikes like this in the summers,” Curtas told the Journal.

In all, New Mexico had roughly 1.35 million registered voters as of Aug. 31, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Of that amount, about 600,000 were registered Democrats – or 44.4% of all voters – and 421,422 were Republicans. The remaining voters were a mix of Libertarians, minor party members and those who declined to state a political party affiliation.

While there were only about 5,200 more voters registered at the end of August than there were at the end of May, Curtas said the state’s voter rolls are constantly being adjusted due to deaths, new registrations, voters moving out of state and felony convictions that bar an individual from voting.

Regardless of whether the increase in newly registered female voters ends up impacting political races in New Mexico this fall, Atkeson said the abortion ruling has injected a new political dynamic into an election cycle in which Republicans hope to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings.

“In a year in which some Democrats are not that excited about Biden and the economy, maybe this helps to mobilize Democratic women,” Atkeson said.

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