SXSW Explores the Progressive Power of Ballot Measures

Organizers from different states discuss letting the voters decide on issues like abortion

Art via Getty Images

If Arizona for Abortion Access – a coalition of ACLU of Arizona, Arizona List, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, AZ Reproductive Freedom for All, and Healthcare Rising Arizona – can collect almost 400,000 signatures from Arizona voters by July 3, they can put reproductive rights on the ballot come November. And it will most likely win. They know that despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion access is widely popular – California, Michigan, and Ohio have all enshrined abortion rights in their constitutions through ballot measures. On March 8, Planned Parenthood’s Chris Love, who is leading the ballot measure effort in Arizona, will join a panel discussion on the power of organizing to restore progressive policies that are shown to win at the ballot box, despite politicians attempting to enforce unpopular policies from the top down.

Abortion access is not the only progressive issue that wins; in Austin in the last few years, voters approved stronger police oversight by a landslide as well as Project Connect’s comprehensive mobility plan. So it’s not surprising that the GOP is actively seeking to hobble the will of the electorate by making it harder to vote. Just a few months ago, the Travis County Republican Party delayed signing the contract for a joint primary with the Travis County Democratic Party, in pursuit of hand-counted ballots and an end to countywide voting, which would have caused a headache for voters with long commutes or physical disabilities. The two parties narrowly avoided litigation, and the joint primary went ahead as usual, but U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett noted at the time, “January 6 is one way to steal an election and disenfranchise voters. But there are other ways to do it, like throwing up bureaucratic hurdles, like last-minute changes to how, when, and where you can vote.”

The panelists include Love, ACLU of Missouri’s Luz María Henríquez, Ohio Organizing Collaborative’s Prentiss Haney, who spearheaded the successful abortion access measure in Ohio, and the ballot measure fundraising/consulting group Fairness Project’s Kelly Hall, who has won over 30 ballot measures in multiple states, and who worked with Austin’s No Way on Prop A coalition to block the 2021 proposition, which would have drastically cut other city services to funnel $100 million a year into hiring more police. They’ll discuss victories like those, and a more pressing question, noted in the panel description: “What kind of attacks on ballot measures are we seeing – in which states – and how can we organize to overcome them?”

Ballot Measures: How Voters Protect Abortion and Democracy

Friday 8, 11:30am

Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon A

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SXSW 2024, Abortion, Chris Love, Luz Maria Henriquez, Prentiss Haney, Kelly Hall

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