What’s next for a possible abortion ballot measure in Florida

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 10, Brew. 

By: Mercedes Yanora

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. What’s next for a possible abortion ballot measure in Florida
  2. DeSantis and Haley to appear at tonight’s Republican presidential debate
  3. Ballotpedia captured 6,657 filings for congressional and statewide office in 2023

What’s next for a possible abortion ballot measure in Florida

Floridians Protecting Freedom has submitted 911,169 valid signatures to place an initiative on the November 2024 ballot that would provide a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability, which is estimated to be around 24 weeks, or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.  

The state required 891,523 valid signatures to certify the initiative for the ballot. Florida has a signature distribution requirement, meaning signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 28 congressional districts. As of Jan. 5, the campaign had reached the signature requirement in 17 of the 28 counties.

The amendment will appear on the 2024 ballot if the Florida Supreme Court approves the measure’s ballot language. As part of Florida’s initiative process, the attorney general must ask the state supreme court for an advisory opinion on the measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether the measure “is facially invalid under the United States Constitution.” The court is scheduled to hear arguments on Feb. 7, 2024.

Florida is the only state where a state supreme court must review the language during or after the signature drive. 

On Oct. 31, 2023, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that the initiative should not go on the ballot because its summary “vastly understates the potentially sweeping scope of the amendment, by failing to explain what ‘viability,’ ‘health,’ or ‘healthcare provider’ means, and by not disclosing that a ‘healthcare provider’ might have power to determine when a baby is viable.” Moody wrote that “the potential misinterpretations of the amendment would allow a healthcare provider to render nearly any abortion restriction a practical nullity.”

Groups that have filed briefs opposing the initiative include Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Florida Voters Against Extremism.

Supporters of the measure, including Floridians Protecting Freedom, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and former Florida Republican elected officials, filed briefs opposing the challenge. 

Floridians Protecting Freedom said, “Floridians across the political spectrum believe that the people of Florida should be the ones deciding this issue, not politicians. Mainstream Floridians do not want extreme abortion bans. Our initiative will ensure that the decision to have an abortion belongs to Floridians, their families, and those they trust – not politicians.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overruled Roe v. Wade, seven abortion measures have appeared on statewide ballots. In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year. In November 2023, voters in Ohio approved an initiative establishing a state constitutional right to abortion.

Ballot measures related to abortion have been proposed in 10 other states targeting the 2024 ballot. 

On Nov. 5, 2024, voters in New York will decide on a constitutional amendment to prohibit the denial of rights to an individual based on their “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy,” along with other classes like ethnicity, disability, age, and sex. Also in November, voters in Maryland will decide on a constitutional amendment to establish a right to reproductive freedom, including abortion.

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DeSantis and Haley to appear at tonight’s Republican presidential debate 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will appear in the fifth Republican presidential primary debate tonight, Jan. 10: 

The debate will take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and air at 9 p.m. ET on CNN with the network’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderating. 

Both candidates received at least 10% support or more in three separate national and/or Iowa polls and met the constitutional requirements to qualify for the debate. They also had to agree to accept the rules and format of the debate.

Former President Donald Trump met the qualifying thresholds but will attend a Fox News town hall in Iowa instead.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy appeared in the fourth debate but did not qualify for the fifth because they did not meet the polling requirement. 

The debate occurs five days before the Iowa Republican caucus. It will be the first debate of the Republican presidential primary held after the Republican National Committee lifted its ban on debates it did not sanction. 

The New York Times’ Maggie Astor said of the one-on-one debate, “Both Mr. DeSantis … and Ms. Haley … are long shots to win the caucuses, given that they are trailing Mr. Trump in polls of Iowans by more than 30 points on average. But if either one is to have even a small chance of claiming the nomination, that person needs to drive the other out of the race, which they could do — or at least take a first step toward doing — by beating them for second place in Iowa.”

In the 2016 election cycle, Democrats held nine debates and Republicans held 12. In 2020, Democrats held 11 debates.

Tonight’s debate has the smallest number of participants since the two candidates who participated in the fifth Democratic debate in 2016.

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Ballotpedia captured 6,657 filings for congressional and statewide office in 2023

According to data we gathered last year, 6,657 people declared candidacies in 2023 for congressional or statewide office for elections in either 2023 or 2024.

All of these candidates declared their candidacy on or before their state’s official filing deadline. In 2023, primary filing deadlines for 2024 primaries passed in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, California, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Of the 6,657 candidates, 2,751 were Democratic and 3,108 were Republican. Seven hundred ninety-eight were minor-party candidates or were running in nonpartisan elections.

Across the 2,290 unique offices that we collected data on, 3,272 candidates filed for a position in state legislatures, 2,164 for Congress, and 600 for president of the United States. The chart below details the number of filings by office:

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