Abortion Rights Wins Elections | Crooked Media
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November 07, 2023
What A Day
Abortion Rights Wins Elections

In This Episode

  • Tuesday was Election Day in key battleground states. In Ohio, voters codified reproductive rights into the state’s constitution. And over in Kentucky, incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won reelection over Republican challenger Daniel Cameron. Heather Williams, interim president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, breaks down the results and gives insight on what might happen in next year’s general election.
  • And in headlines: Israel said its troops have reached the heart of Gaza City, New Delhi is dealing with another year of severe air pollution, and scientists have discovered the oldest known black hole in space.


Show Notes:


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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, November 8th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day and yesterday was election day in a bunch of key battleground states. 


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, we will also talk about how Israeli forces have reached the heart of Gaza City. Plus, scientists have discovered the oldest known black hole in space. 


Juanita Tolliver: But first, we’re going to recap last night’s election results. We’re recording this on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. So some of the closer races weren’t called by then. We’ll follow up on them in Thursday’s episode. Here’s the breakdown of what we do know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, it was a big win for abortion access in Ohio. Voters there approved issue one, a measure that codified reproductive rights into the state’s constitution. Really exciting. This is all because, as we’ve reported, abortion advocates in the state have been organizing tirelessly to protect Ohioans right to choice. Republicans tried hard to sabotage activists ahead of the vote from changing the language of the measure itself to make it more confusing and taking thousands of voters off of the state’s rolls just weeks before Election Day. They also held a last minute special election in August to try and raise the voter threshold to amend the state’s constitution. But in the end, they still lost. We prevailed. Issue one was approved. Really happy to see it. Voters also approved issue two in Ohio last night, which legalizes recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, over in Virginia, Democrats gained control of the state’s General assembly where all 140 seats were up for grabs. A GOP led assembly would have cleared the way for Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to further his conservative agenda, including a proposed 15 week abortion ban. 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay, I just got to give a shout out to all of the abortion rights advocates, organizers and people who are on the ground in Ohio and Virginia and across the country, because y’all did that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: Especially in Ohio, like they’ve been on the ground pounding the pavement since last summer. So I’m so happy with the result on issue one in Ohio. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I know you were right Juanita, we saw this as a motivating issue before and it still is. 


Juanita Tolliver: 100%. Yes. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: And to everyone who told us, that it wouldn’t be you were wrong. 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean, plain and simple abortion protections win elections. Do not change a thing in 2024. [laughing] Meanwhile, over in Kentucky, incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear was projected to win reelection over Republican challenger Daniel Cameron. Cameron is the former attorney general of Kentucky and a staunch anti-abortion advocate. He’s also a protege of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. So safe to say we dodged a bullet there. He’s also the dude– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. 


Juanita Tolliver: –that didn’t get any accountability for Breonna Taylor’s murder. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. That’s the first thing I think of every time I hear that man’s name. And may that follow him around for the rest of his life. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. And in Philadelphia, Democrat Cherelle Parker won her race to become the city’s first female mayor. A huge accomplishment there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So there is a lot going on, a lot of exciting things to celebrate. And there are still more results slowly coming in, like in Mississippi, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Pressley successfully petitioned to keep polls open for an additional hour as election officials repeatedly ran out of ballots for voters in majority Black districts over the course of Election Day. As you were saying, Juanita, not a state that makes it easy, particularly to vote ahead of time, vote early. Pretty crucial that these polling places are stocked on Election Day and they were not. So I’m glad his petition was successful, but that is what we were certain of as far as our recording time and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night. We will you know keep you updated as we learn more. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. The other thing about Mississippi is those polling locations had exactly the number of ballots that the secretary of State wanted them to have, and that is all I’ll say about that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And it says it all. It really does. 


Juanita Tolliver: All right. We’re going to unpack this now because how this off year election played out is going to give us some clues as to what might happen in next year’s general election. Joining us to tell us more about all of this is Heather Williams, interim president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to state legislatures. Heather, thanks so much for joining us. 


Heather Williams: I’m so happy to be here. I love talking about this. 


Juanita Tolliver: So as I mentioned before we started recording, I’ve been refreshing VPAP. I’m sure I’ve contributed to it crashing, but I want to know which race outcome was the most exciting for you to watch yesterday?


Heather Williams: We are so excited that there is so much more attention on these races and we, you know, feel so good about the Virginia Senate and are eagerly awaiting results in the House. But I think being able to really stop an abortion ban in Virginia is great. 


Juanita Tolliver: And are there any outcomes that give you a lot of pause and concern about 2024? 


Heather Williams: You know, I don’t think there’s anything that’s giving me pause and concern yet. We’ve got a lot to learn, a lot of underlying data that we’re going to be looking at. But I think we in the States feel so great about the amount of attention that these races are getting and that people are really understanding the stakes in the states and how critically important they are to, you know, moving our shared agenda forward. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s talk about how turnout looked between Election Day itself, early voting, mail in. What was Democratic turnout like this time around? 


Heather Williams: Ooh, this is a great question and one that I still think we have some to learn from. It’s interesting–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Heather Williams: –because these races in Virginia, right, the legislature is at the top of the ticket. And so we’re really excited to dig in to see what that means and what it means for how motivating these races really are and how connected people feel to the impact that the legislators and ultimately their legislature has on their lives. So more to follow on that. We’re really excited to dig into that data. 


Juanita Tolliver: I know one of the data points also just off the top of my head is that a lot of young people took advantage of that same day voter registration in Virginia, and took the time to go register and submit their ballots today. Is that something you were encouraged by and hope to see more of in the future? 


Heather Williams: Yeah, I mean, we love it when people vote, [laugh] when they use the ability to same day register, right? Like it’s such an incredible thing. Um. It really gives people flexibility and really allows them to engage. Um we were talking earlier yesterday about the lines that we’re seeing around the Virginia Tech area and just what that shows um and how impactful same day registration is and why it’s so important that it is a tool that is used right everywhere. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: And just this past week, a New York Times poll showed that President Biden’s popularity is lagging among people who should be supporting him. Did that have any effect on the results in Democratic turnout? 


Heather Williams: The president is the leader of our party, and certainly he’s been engaged in the races in Virginia. He endorsed a number of candidates, [?] weekend. Um. It was really great. But what we know is that people care deeply about these state races and that they are showing up. They’re motivated. We’ve seen Democratic performance plus 7% in these special elections that we’ve had all year and we’ve seen good results. And we know that people are really connecting to the progress being made in the states and that polls are a snapshot in time and they tell us a story. But there’s still a lot of a lot of road ahead of us before we get to 2024. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. And on that note, 2024 is what so many of us are looking towards, especially now that Election Day has wrapped up. I’m wondering about the strategy for keeping progressive turnout high. What do you think will keep voters energized and engaged between now and then? And you know, what do you think progressives and Democrats should be doing that they maybe aren’t doing enough of at this point? 


Heather Williams: So we’ve got more special elections to come before the actual you know November 2024 election happens. There’s lots of ways to get engaged. You know, people can check out our website at DLCC.org to find out how to get involved and sort of what’s um happening. But what we know is that there are so many opportunities for Democrats and progressives to use their voices throughout the year all the time, and not just on Election Day. And we want to make sure that we’re really sharing those stories. We also go into right traditional legislative session time where we see a lot of these issues that we care so deeply about being addressed and progress being made in the states. And we’re going to continue to see that as we move into, you know, January of next year. I mean, I think the thing that cannot be stressed enough from my perspective and our perspective here at DLCC is that these races are so impactful and that they have such a incredible impact on our lives. And, you know, we need to absolutely care about the race for president and we need to care deeply, right, about what happens in Congress, in the U.S. Senate. But we also need to care deeply about what’s happening in our states. We’re seeing, you know, not just the issue of abortion being addressed in states positively, of course, by Democrats. Bans right by Republicans. But we are seeing progress being made on all kinds of issues that we care so deeply about. And so getting more engagement and having people become more interested in what’s happening in their states is really critically important, not just for us as an organization, right, but more broadly for our democracy and people’s engagement in politics. So um we really hope that there is a connection to hope and possibility in the States and that people feel really motivated to, you know, not just ensure that President Biden is reelected in 2024, but that we are also really focused on what is happening in the states. 


Juanita Tolliver: You heard it here, folks. Get involved in your state and local elections because they fully matter. And Heather Williams, interim president for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Thanks so much for joining us. 


Heather Williams: Thank you. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yesterday’s election is just the beginning y’all because presidential primaries start in just weeks from now. Seriously, January 15th. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s too soon. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Buckle up, because this is going to be a wild and early ride. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: We’ll need every vote to turn out. So remember to stay involved by heading to votesaveamerica.com. You’ll be able to get more information, volunteer, and more. That’s VoteSaveAmerica.com. And that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break] 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Starting with an update on the latest in the Israel-Hamas war. We told you yesterday that Israeli forces said that they were closing in on Gaza City and as of Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, Israel said its troops were pushing deeper into the city. The country’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that troops had, quote, “reached the heart of Gaza City” and were, quote, “tightening the noose.” Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this during an interview with ABC News when asked who should occupy Gaza when the war is over. 


[clip of Benjamin Netanyahu] I think Israel will for an indefinite period, we’ll have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it, when we don’t have that security responsibility. What we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In response, a White House spokesman told reporters yesterday, quote, “We’re having active discussions with our Israeli counterparts about what post-conflict Gaza looks like,” adding that the president, quote, “maintains his position that reoccupation by Israeli forces is not the right thing to do.” 


Juanita Tolliver: Nope. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So definitely at odds there. I’m sure they have much to discuss about this and many things at this point. Meanwhile, stateside, authorities are investigating the death of a 69 year old Jewish man who died on Monday in Thousand Oaks, California, after sustaining a head injury at a protest over the Israel-Hamas war. It happened on Sunday when Paul Kessler fell backwards and hit his head on the ground during a confrontation. Kessler died early Monday at a hospital, and the Ventura County medical examiner deemed his death a homicide. According to officials, it remains unclear how the man died, and they have not yet determined whether the death will be treated as a hate crime. Meanwhile, officials are asking people to share any video footage they have of the altercation. 


Juanita Tolliver: House lawmakers advanced legislation yesterday to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib over her criticism of the Israeli government, silencing the only Palestinian-American member of Congress. Democrats tried to block the measure from moving forward with a motion to table the resolution, but Republicans used their narrow majority in the chamber to push it through. Tlaib has drawn the ire of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle over the past few weeks for condemning the Israeli government’s bombing of Palestinians amid its war with Hamas and calling for a cease fire in Gaza. The resolution for Tlaib’s censure accuses the representative of, quote, “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel and defending terrorism.” Take a listen to what she had to say in response. 


[clip of Rashida Tlaib] It is important to separate people and governments Mr. Chair. No government is beyond criticism. The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent. And it’s being used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Now to New Delhi, where toxic air has led schools to close and work to stop as the Indian capital deals with another year of severe air pollution. According to India’s main environmental monitoring agency. The air quality index was at hazardous levels yesterday. It was also the fifth day in a row of bad air for the region. In response, authorities are attempting to control the toxic smog with water sprinklers and anti smog guns. They’re also fining people they find using gasoline and diesel vehicles. In the meantime, doctors have asked residents to wear masks and refrain from going outside as much as possible. Why does all of this sound too familiar? I am not liking the direction that our planet is heading in. Nearly every year, New Delhi is among the world’s most polluted cities and the air quality gets particularly bad in the winter when cooler temperatures trap in pollutants from crop residues burning nearby. This year, the smog has threatened the ongoing Cricket World Cup, and some residents worry that the pollution could get even worse ahead of Diwali, The Hindu Festival of Lights, which is happening this weekend. I mean, I hope that this clears up for so many reasons. And just one of them is that uh Diwali seems very sorely needed this year. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In the face of everything going on in this world. Yeah.


Juanita Tolliver: And finally, in out of this world science news, researchers have discovered the oldest black hole in space. NASA’s released its findings about the Cosmic Giant on Monday in the Nature Astronomy Journal. According to the study, the black hole is 13.2 billion years old. Scientists say that it formed 470 million years after the Big Bang. Now I just need to know the formula they used to calculate this because wow. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: You need to know. And I’m just like, sorry. All of this over my head and straight back into the black hole. That’s where it is. Not in my brain. 


Juanita Tolliver: And get this. The black hole is also ten times bigger than the one in our Milky Way, and they believe it to weigh anywhere from 10 to 100% of all the stars in the galaxy. My mind is blown because it has a weight first and foremost. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: Like what? [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Who knew? Who knew? Yeah. This is really so wild to comprehend that this is out there. I mean, I feel that way about, like, all space discoveries. But the universe beyond us is so vast and probably full of aliens. 


Juanita Tolliver: Ooh. Now, that’s a thought. [laughing] Okay.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a take. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now all of this is a huge deal because until now, the existence of supermassive black holes at the dawn of the universe were just theories. Even crazier, NASA researchers say they may have already spotted a black hole that’s 29 million years older than this one. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Excuse me. 


Juanita Tolliver: That one has yet to be verified. Right. So it’s not confirmed yet, but one of the scholars from Yale University who participated in the study said, quote, “We are expecting a new window to open in the universe. And I think this is the first crack.” So wait a, wait a second. A black hole as big as all the stars in the galaxy is considered a crack Priyanka. And number two, this is giving– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just a crack. 


Juanita Tolliver: –Interstellar like I feel like somebody put this here in the universe, in our galaxy, for us to find another place to live. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And you know who I think should go find it? You know, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and all of them want to go explore, do your thing, pop off Kings. [laugh] Just well, we’ll be right behind you. Don’t worry. We’re following. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. I don’t want to participate in dropping the probe into the black hole, but I am curious to see what comes out. I am genuinely curious. [laughter] And those are the headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go. The third and thankfully, final GOP primary debate is happening tonight. Hallelujah. But no need to lose your brain cells watching it. We will be covering it on tomorrow’s episode ourselves. So stay tuned. We’re doing the heavy lifting we are sparing you. It’s just a gift from us to you. And you can also catch tomorrow’s Pod Save America episode of for some sweet political analysis. Everything you missed from the debate and hear Election Day reactions from Dan, Jon Favreau and Tommy all in one place. New episodes of Pod Save America drop every Tuesday and Thursday. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/Subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.