Florida’s abortion ballot measure faces daunting threshold in November

In the Sunshine State, abortion will be on the ballot when voters decide on the presidential and Senate races — but unlike those two races, the abortion ballot measure must seek a higher threshold that could be its undoing. Democrats have tied their hopes for making up ground in Florida — a state becoming increasingly […]

In the Sunshine State, abortion will be on the ballot when voters decide on the presidential and Senate races — but unlike those two races, the abortion ballot measure must seek a higher threshold that could be its undoing.

Democrats have tied their hopes for making up ground in Florida — a state becoming increasingly Republican — to the abortion ballot measure, while Republicans have stated their opposition to the measure, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has reportedly launched a fund to support the opposition.

Currently, in Florida, abortion is banned after six weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, human trafficking, or the health of the mother. Ballot Measure 4 would block the state from creating laws that would “prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

Proponents of the initiative argue it would enshrine abortion rights through viability, while opponents of the measure have argued the exceptions are too vague and could open the door for abortion without limits.

While abortion ballot measures have typically gone in favor of Democrats, the 60% threshold required for a measure to pass in Florida means neither side has the upper hand, even if the measure is popular.

“I don’t think people appreciate how high a threshold 60% is. It’s a significant threshold. It’s going to be hard to get there,” Dr. Kevin Wagner, professor and associate dean at Florida Atlantic University, told the Washington Examiner.

“The initial sort of look at the public opinion data suggest there’s more support for ballot measure four than say the marijuana measure, it could theoretically still pass to if both can carry 60% but it’s gonna, it’s gonna depend a lot on who turns out in November,” he added.

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Recent polling has shown the measure being over the 60% threshold, with a June Fox News poll showing 69% of Florida voters supporting the measure, but with months to go in the campaign where the two major political parties have picked opposing sides, it appears too early to predict who will have the edge.

Democrats have tied themselves to the measure, pitching for voters to support amendment four and vote for President Joe Biden, and looking to capitalize on the matter.

“We know we got into this moment because Donald Trump stacked the court, and they overturned Roe v. Wade, and from there, Ron DeSantis passed a 15-week abortion ban and then a six-week abortion ban,” Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Nikki Fried told reporters in April.

FILE – Abortion rights advocates hold a rally in support of the “Yes On 4” campaign in downtown Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, April 13, 2024, ahead of the November ballot initiative, when Florida voters will decide on whether to allow the right to an abortion in Florida. At least four states will have abortion-related ballot questions in November’s election and there’s a push to get them before voters in several others. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

Republicans in the Sunshine State have stated their opposition to both ballot measures three — which would legalize recreational marijuana — and four, accusing supporters of the measure of trying to confuse voters.

“Floridians are confident that their legislature has been passing laws that reflect the priorities of our state. Amendments 3 and 4 are unnecessary attempts by an increasingly shrinking minority who know the only way to win support for their radical agenda is to confuse and mislead the electorate,” Florida Republican Party chairman Evan Power said in a statement.

“The Florida Democrats are a dead carcass on the side of the road, but outside dark money groups are looking to promote their far-left ideology by attempting to confuse Florida voters. The Florida GOP stands ready to correct the record and defeat the radical left while enshrining in our Constitution more rights for our citizens,” he added.

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Democrats have hoped abortion on the ballot will boost turnout and potentially boost Biden and Democratic Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — who is challenging Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) — to upset victories in November. The Biden campaign has insisted the state is “in play,” with abortion being center to their rationale.

“Florida is in play for President Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot. Trump and his out of touch loyalists are taking the state for granted, while their extreme agenda continues to increase costs and rip away Floridians’ freedoms,” Dan Kanninen, Biden-Harris Battleground States Director said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “The President has a strong story to tell on the issues that matter most to Floridians, which is why our campaign continues to scale up our presence and investments into the state.”

Wagner predicts that while the ballot measure will likely boost Democratic turnout more than Republican turnout, the growing strength of the Florida GOP may be too much for Democrats to overcome in terms of taking a victory in the presidential and Senate races.

“My expectation is it should help Democratic turnout more than it’ll help Republican turnout, just by looking at the patterns that have occurred in other states across the country on these measures,” Wagner said. “With that said, the strength of the Republican Party in Florida has been significantly greater than the Democratic Party over the last several election cycles, so it’s hard to see that being enough to overcome the advantages that Republicans have in Florida.”

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“Not impossible, but it would be highly unexpected,” he added.

In November 2020, Democrats held a 106,986 lead in registered voters in the state over the GOP, but as of May 31, 2024, Republicans now hold a 930,671 registered voter lead over Democrats in Florida. The last major elections in the state, in 2022, were a disaster for Democrats, with all statewide GOP candidates winning by double digits.

In Ohio, a former key swing state that has also shifted Republican in recent years, voters approved a ballot measure similar to the one in Florida by a margin of 56.8%-43.2% in November 2023. Florida could also see ticket splitters who still vote Republican but also support ballot measure four – adding a hurdle to Democrats looking to capitalize on the topic.

“I think the data from some of the other states, like Ohio, that did this show that you can get significant support for Republicans on one of these ‘return to Roe’ style amendments, and then you know, the Republicans will return to voting for Republican candidates in other races. We’ve certainly seen that pattern in other states,” Wagner said


“So for Democrats, it’s not just getting people to turn on the amendment, it’s getting them to choose Democratic candidates as well. That’s certainly no sure thing,” he added.

Voters in Florida will decide on the fate of ballot measure four on Nov. 5.

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