More female than male Hoosiers registered to vote or updated their voting information in Indiana following the leak of the Dobbs’ decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in May. 

The trend mirrors a national surge of women registering to vote after learning about the ruling that would overturn abortion access to millions of women, including those living in Indiana. But Indiana’s numbers aren’t as dramatic as elsewhere. 

Data from the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office showed that of the 278,216 voters who registered or updated their voter information between January and the first half of September, 52% of those voters were women and 47% were men. Indiana’s population is nearly evenly split between those genders.

Democrats frame the numbers as a win for them, hoping it’ll spill over to Congressional races in the fall after GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed a national 15-week ban on the healthcare procedure.

“Women are updating their voter registrations because they want to hold the Indiana Republican Party accountable for conducting the worst form of government overreach in recent memory. Only a woman and her doctor should make personal health care decisions – not politicians,” said Lauren Ganapini, the executive director for the Indiana Democratic Party. “A vote for Democrats is a vote to repeal the dangerous abortion ban and stop (Sen.) Todd Young and (First Congressional candidate) Jennifer-Ruth Green’s goal to ban legal and safe abortions nationwide…”

However, the Indiana Republican Party seemed to believe the new voters would vote for their candidates.

“We reject the premise that women automatically vote with the Democrat Party — especially here in Indiana — where we have long been a party of strong female leaders and currently hold supermajorities in the general assembly, seven — soon to be eight — congressional seats, every statewide office, and 88% of all countywide elected offices,” said Luke Thomas, the spokesperson for the GOP said. “As we travel the state, we are seeing intensity and excitement everywhere we go. Hoosiers are fired up to send a strong message that Indiana values life…”  

What does the data say?

Data from the Secretary of State’s office shows that, overall, more women prepared to vote in the following months than men, though men accounted for the majority of those newly registered. 

May saw an 82% increase in voter activity from April, jumping from 10,333 voters to 56,746. Of those 56,746 voters, 15,951 had registered in May (either newly registered or re-registered) and the remaining 40,795 had updated their voter registration information. 

More men than women registered, 8,234 men versus 7,314 women, but more women than men updated their voter information, 21,915 women compared to 18,593 men. The remaining 690 voters – either new or updated voting records – opted not to identify their gender.

Updated registrations could include a change of address for a lapsed voter who wants to get involved again.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the two genders in Indiana are nearly tied, with women comprising 50.4% of the state’s population.

In the 2022 months preceding the leaked Supreme Court decision, 53,087 female voters registered or updated their records. Between May and August, 90,516 women have done so. 

But Indiana’s surge pales in comparison to other states, who saw the numbers of female voters skyrocket in response to Dobbs, specifically in Kansas, which held its own voter referendum on abortion access.

An analysis shared by Tom Bonier, the CEO of Democrat-consulting group TargetSmart, showed that Indiana’s gender gap post-Dobbs increased by 6%, compared to 22% in Kansas. Other states with gender gaps higher than Indiana included Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho and Ohio. 

Does it mean anything?

Julia Vaughn, the executive director of Common Cause Indiana, observed that Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom of states in terms of voter turnout, even after reporting a new 65% high in the 2020 general election. 

“More than anything else, Indiana’s got a turnout problem,” Vaughn said. “We need to certainly work to bring new people into the system but more than anything else we’ve got to work on turning out those folks who have been registered and who – for whatever reason – have chosen not to participate.”

Vaughn, whose organization seeks to educate voters and increase turnout, said she hoped for a higher turnout this year, with voters energized around issues such as abortion, the control of Congress and inflation.

“If we ever need motivation to participate as voters, it’s all being laid out in front of us,” Vaughn said.

But Vaughn said voters could be discouraged, saying Indiana’s election laws make voting more difficult than other states. 

“Certainly things like the passage of (the abortion ban) over the objections of thousands of voices – that doesn’t help. People feel very powerless and it’s hard to convince them otherwise when they see all this evidence in front of them,” Vaughn said. “(But) if our vote wasn’t so meaningful, if it wasn’t so impactful, there wouldn’t be this whole group of people trying to suppress it and trying to make it harder to vote.”

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