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Abortion Issues Transform State Supreme Court Races in Anticipation of 2024 Elections

The upcoming 2024 elections are poised to be dominated by the presidential contest and the battle for control of Congress. 

However, a series of state supreme court races, spanning 33 states and involving 80 seats, are emerging as equally consequential. Crucial issues such as abortion, gerrymandering, and voting rights will play a pivotal role, taking these races to the forefront of political attention.

The Post-Roe Landscape

Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, a seismic shift has occurred in the abortion debate, moving it to the states. This decision has ushered in a “new era” in state supreme court elections, as noted by Douglas Keith, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The intensity of these court races was demonstrated in 2023, particularly in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Democrats secured victories amid substantial spending on TV ads. This foreshadows what lies ahead in 2024 and has prompted interest groups to consider investing in states that were previously overlooked.

At least 38 lawsuits challenging abortion bans in 23 states have been filed, with many expected to reach state supreme courts. The ACLU is closely monitoring cases in multiple states, emphasizing the critical role of state courts in protecting access to abortion after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

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Abortion Battles Take Center Stage

The upcoming 2024 elections are poised to be dominated by the presidential contest and the battle for control of Congress.

Major players, including the ACLU and the Republican State Leadership Committee, are actively participating in these court races. While the ACLU supported Democrats in recent contests, the Republican State Leadership Committee focuses on redistricting as a primary objective. Both sides recognize the state supreme courts as influential battlegrounds.

In Ohio, Democrats see the state supreme court races as an extension of the November election, where voters enshrined the right to abortion in the state constitution. With three seats up for a vote and an opportunity to flip the current Republican majority, the stakes are high. The court’s role in interpreting the new constitutional amendment adds to the significance of the election.

Redistricting is anticipated to be a central theme in several state supreme court races, including Ohio. The courts, having realigned politically, will play a crucial role in shaping the state’s congressional and legislative maps. Experts predict substantial spending on these campaigns, highlighting their tangible impact on voters’ lives.

In North Carolina, Republicans aim to expand their majority after the court flipped from Democratic to GOP control in 2022. Recent reversals of rulings made by the previous court underscore the far-reaching consequences of these elections. Similarly, Wisconsin witnessed a major shift in the 2023 court race, with abortion taking center stage and Democrats securing a majority.

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