Abortion, Inflation, Ballot Issues Seen as Important in November
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
May 18, 2022, 10 a.m. ·
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Abortion, inflation, and ballot issues are among the subjects voters – and candidates – are likely to focus on in the general election in November, according to one political science professor in Nebraska.
Primary election night, 2022, right after the first returns were reported, Republican 1st District congressional candidate, state Sen. Mike Flood talked to a gathering in downtown Lincoln. Flood, a Republican, contrasted his position to that of his general election opponent, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democrat.
“This is a race about two very different views for America. My vision: I’m endorsed by the Nebraska Right to Life group. I’m endorsed by Nebraskans United for life. My opponent is endorsed by Nebraska’s largest abortion provider,” Flood said.
Flood was referring to Planned Parenthood, on whose board Pansing Brooks served in the 1990s.
In the Legislature, Flood has been staunchly pro-life, sponsoring the nation’s first law banning abortion 20 weeks after fertilization in 2010.
Pansing Brooks has been a consistent pro-choice advocate, fighting against abortion restrictions. On primary election night, speaking to supporters at a gathering a block away from Flood’s, Pansing Brooks said a lot is at stake.
“When you look at what just happened on the Supreme Court decision, the right to privacy is at risk. And that includes birth control. It includes women’s bodily autonomy. It includes IUDs…Even just a d & c after someone has a miscarriage. Think of that! That is all at risk,” Pansing Brooks said.
Pansing Brooks also says in vitro fertilization would be at risk.
Creighton University political science professor Rick Witmer says the way the two candidates talk about the issue is important for their attempt to influence voters.
“There’re two very different ideas about how to frame the issue – as a women’s health issue, or an abortion issue. And I think that’s going to be front and center here,” Witmer said.
And Witmer says the issue is likely to resonate far beyond the 1st Congressional District.
‘Depending on what the court does this summer, we’re going to see abortion front and center in most races, whether it’s for governor, or if it’s going to be for Congress, whether it’s going to be even more local races,” he said.
Witmer expects the other big issue to be the economy, and specifically inflation.
“Inflation’s one of those that if prices start to come down, inflation starts to slow, Democrats are certainly going to say ‘Look, we’ve been able to bring down inflation and here’s what we’ve done to it.’ Republicans are going to run and say ‘Look how high inflation is,’” he said.
But Witmer said regardless of what candidates’ say, there are big questions whether they can do anything about it.
“I have no idea what the solution to inflation is and I’m not sure economists do, either. We’re going to increase interest rates and hope people spend less money. But what can the parties do about that’s the problem, right?” he asked.
Another factor that might influence the election is ballot issues. Advocates have filed paperwork to collect signatures to put up to 16 issues on the November ballot, on issues ranging from guns, and voter ID to the minimum wage and cannabis.
It’s far from certain that all those will make the ballot. But to the extent they do, Witmer said, it could influence which and how many voters turn out.
“One of the things that these initiatives might do will (be to) motivate some people to turn out to vote. You know, if you feel strongly about an issue, a candidate probably isn’t running on those single issues. But as a voter how can you make your voice heard on issues like medical marijuana or some of the others,” he said.
Petition circulators have until July 7 to turn in the signatures they’ve collected. Proposed changes in laws, like raising the minimum wage, require valid signatures from seven percent of the state’s registered voters, or approximately 87,000 people. Proposed amendments to the state constitution, like legalizing medical marijuana, require signatures from 10 percent of registered voters, or approximately 124,000 people.
After the petition are submitted, election officials have until September 16 to validate the signatures, resolve any legal disputes, and certify what goes on the ballot. If an issue goes on the ballot, voters will have their say on general election day, Nov. 8.
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