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State supreme courts could soon decide on abortion, raising stakes of their midterm races

The Dobbs decision has drawn attention to the power of state judiciaries, transforming once-sleepy races into high-energy elections. In Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina, which have partisan elections for state supreme court, this year’s races could determine which party controls top court. Issues such as abortion and gun control have made judicial elections more political and polarizing, an election law expert says. The 2019-20 election cycle will set a record of $97 million spent on state court elections nationwide, a report from Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School says. Even where abortion has not yet been on the docket since the fall of Roe v. Wade, courts are making decisions on hot-button issues from gerrymandering to affirmative action.

Democrats see state supreme court races as a way to bring out supporters if they can convince them the races could have a direct effect on their right to an abortion. In Kansas, a referendum to remove abortion protections from the state’s constitution failed amid unexpectedly high turnout. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the party will try to convince Texas voters that supporting Democratic justices will achieve a “much quicker result” in protecting abortion rights, as opposed to trying to end the filibuster and pass a federal guarantee in the U.S. Senate. In Illinois, a group of progressive political operatives launched an organization last month dedicated to increasing awareness of the state Supreme Court race, according to co-founder Terry Cosgrove. In Texas,

The Roe and Dobbs decisions have upped the stakes for this November’s race for the state Supreme Court. North Carolina has been plagued with legal battles over its congressional maps and redistricting. Democrats hold a razor-thin 4-3 majority on the high court, and the Roe decision has raised the stakes. “We’re in the middle of summer parade season — normally when we show up in past cycles, judges are kind of at the back of the pack,” said Brian Morris, who leads the New Mexico Democratic efforts on judicial races.