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Abortion Policy: An Upper Midwestern Snapshot

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In South Dakota a landmark petitioned referendum will be on the ballot this November, asking voters whether or not to uphold the recently signed State House Bill's abortion ban. Mid-summer polling on the referendum—which does not provide exceptions for rape and incest—suggests the referendum may not pass, with those inclined to vote 'nay' holding an eight-point advantage (KELO-TV / Argus Leader). So, just how supportive is the Upper Midwest of a woman's right to choose?

South Dakotans equally self-identify as pro-life (48%) as pro-choice (48%), followed by Iowans (41% / 54%), Minnesotans (40% / 55% ), and Wisconsinites (39% / 56%) (SurveyUSA). But how do these labels 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' translate into policy positions?

It appears many Upper Midwesterners who are pro-life still view abortion as a personal choice. The vast majority of residents of each state feel the state and federal government should not have the final say on the matter (72% in Iowa, 70% in Wisconsin, 66% in Minnesota, and 59% in South Dakota) (SurveyUSA).

Still, despite being outnumbered, the power of the 'pro-life' movement can be felt at the ballot box: in June four republican members of the South Dakota state legislature who voted against the abortion ban were ousted in the primary. The extent to which social conservatives—especially religious conservatives—turn out to vote may not only spell victory or defeat for South Dakota's abortion referendum, but also close district-level races throughout the Upper Midwest.

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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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