As part of the “Vote No August 2” movement, a group of young activists has formed an organization to energize people around the reproductive justice movement and appeal better to young voters.
With a fun, western theme, Vote Neigh aims to get people excited about mobilizing against the amendment that threatens Kansans’ abortion rights.
Vote Neigh on Wednesday afternoon hosted a virtual panel event, “These Boots Were Made for Votin’,” to not only continue encouraging Kansans to vote “no” to the “Value Them Both” amendment on the upcoming August ballot, but also encouraging people to take steps beyond their personal vote.
Reproductive justice organizations across the state came together to educate on what the amendment truly means for Kansans, share the work that each individual organization is putting in daily, and provide immediate actions everyone can take to help. Each organization that partnered with Vote Neigh had a representative on the panel:
• Rija Nazir, lead organizer of Vote Neigh and panel facilitator
• Chloe Chaffin, Washburn University chapter of URGE
• Helena Buchmann, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom
• Leslie Butsch, ACLU of Kansas
• Ximena Ibarra, Kansas URGE
• Lauren Klapper, Planned Parenthood Great Plains
“We know that if this amendment passes that it will lead to an outright abortion ban, that it won’t include exceptions for rape, incest or the health of a pregnant person,” Klapper said.
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“Really it’s about taking our power back and making sure that Kansans get to decide what’s best for themselves and their families, and not the Legislature’s, so that’s why it’s important to vote ‘no.’”
Much of the groundwork includes phone banking, canvassing communities and organizing in-person and online events. According to organizers, anyone can help in these areas. They encouraged everyone to get involved in some capacity leading up to the Aug. 2 vote and afterward.
“More than anything, this is a community of people who want to build a better Kansas together and you are an essential part of that. Make a commitment to yourselves and to your communities to show up,” Butsch said.
“These fights are ongoing and also whatever happens on August 2nd, all of us should have a community we can lean on for the long haul, so I really encourage all of you to find an organizational home. Find somewhere to put your energy, because organizing is forever.”
After the main panel, Nazir opened the virtual floor for attendees to ask questions in a Q&A.
Q&A with Vote Neigh panelists
Q1: What do you think about removing signs that support the Value Them Both amendment from peoples’ property or blocking signs with other signs?
A1: Organizers shared that they do not support stealing signs as it is illegal.
“We don’t encourage behavior like that. We personally don’t think it’s helping anybody. … Our job is not to change the minds of people who are dead-set on voting yes,” Nazir said.
Buchmann added, “Yard signs don’t vote, and energy spent on a yard sign war is energy that could be spent talking to voters, in my opinion. Channel that anger and frustration into action.”
Q2: How can I mobilize people in my area without help from a local political party?
A2: Buchmann responded first by explaining that supporting abortion rights is not inherently Democratic or Republican.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is is all of us. A lot of Democratic parties are really leading on this, but we don’t have to organize within the Democratic Party structure,” she said. She encouraged people to reach out to organizers if they need help in their communities.
Q3: What do you think about having more fun community events in the future to balance the negativity going on?
A3: Referencing her cowboy hat, Butsch first responded by shouting out the fun aspects of the movement already in place.
“I think that’s why KS Vote Neigh exists. Because what we have in front of us is an abortion ban that could be coming to Kansas, and that is really heavy and hard, and what we have is a powerful group of young organizers who took that and rebranded it as something that is fun and we get to laugh at — and they have a playlist. This group is doing that.”
Without giving away too much information, Nazir then said Vote Neigh has plans for fun events in the works. Earlier, Ibarra had shared that canvassing events, especially with friends, are always fun.
Q4: Are there laws that restrict canvassing at public events like farmers markets or art fairs, or are we free to wander and pass out materials?
A4: “I know that when it comes to registration, we do not recommend that at the moment since there are some legal complications with that, and we don’t want to put people in that kind of position,” Nazir said.
Chad Manspeaker, who said he’s a longtime organizer and political commentator, added his perspective as well, saying that targeting specific voters rather than a broad pool of voters is the best strategy. “You can spend a lot of time chasing voters in the hopes that they will turn out and they won’t. So any time that you’re spending, you want to make sure you’re using it as effectively and as impactful as possible.”
Resources and contact information are available on each organization’s website, linked above, and many of their social media accounts feature educational infographics to learn from and share.
Upcoming “Vote No” events, which are happening every day, can be found at this link.
As of Wednesday, Vote Neigh has T-shirts for sale at this link. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Kansas Abortion Fund, which provides support and funding to all Kansans in need of abortion access.
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.