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Years after California put abortion on the ballot, Nevada and others try the same. It won't be so easy.

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Years after California put abortion on the ballot, Nevada and others try the same. It won't be so easy.

Nevada organizers last month celebrated a flood of voter signatures in support of placing a measure ensuring abortion rights on the November ballot.

But their work isn’t over — not even close.

Nevada is among about a dozen states where abortion activists are working to put the protection of reproductive rights into voters’ hands, as California did two years ago. But unlike in liberal California, organizers in some of those states must navigate a patchwork of onerous bureaucratic hurdles and overcome hostile political opposition.

Ballot measures in neighboring Nevada seeking to amend the state constitution must be approved by voters in two consecutive general elections.

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“We will have to go through the process all over again,” Tova Yampolsky, the campaign manager for Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, said from a coffee shop in May just minutes from the casinos along the Strip as signatures were being officially tallied by election officials across the state.

For organizers like Yampolsky, that means at least two more years of uncertainty in an already uncertain political landscape after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion nationwide in 2022. While former President Trump, the presumptive 2024 GOP nominee, has so far stopped short of calling for a national abortion ban, he has supported limiting access and has taken credit for appointing the conservative justices who overturned Roe vs. Wade.

Yampolksy’s team will have to fight for attention in the perpetual swing state, but in some ways, getting voter approval is the easy part. Recent polling shows strong abortion support among Nevadans.

It’s the path to the ballot that’s proving difficult. The campaign has already fended off Republican backed legal challenges over the ballot measure language. Now, they wait to see if they gathered enough eligible signatures equal to 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent general election — more than California’s 8% threshold. While California has no geographical requirement for signatures, in Nevada, support must be gathered equally from each of the state’s four congressional districts.

“We’re going to have to fight for every vote,” Yampolsky said. “We’re not taking anything for granted.”

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Within weeks of the Supreme Court decision overturning federal abortion protections, the California Legislature was among the first in the nation to approve a statewide ballot measure to guarantee the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.” Top Democrats including Gov. Gavin Newsom helped pump millions of dollars into the campaign, and nearly 67% of voters approved the measure in the November 2022 election.

Voters in a handful of states, including Ohio, Michigan and Vermont, approved similar protections. More initiative efforts are now underway in states such as Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Arkansas and Florida.

“We’re seeing the important role that direct democracy plays in making sure the will of the people is heard,” said Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which supports progressive causes. “Ballot measures are a key part of a thriving democracy. It’s giving people the agency to vote on issues that are incredibly popular and often transcend party lines.”

Some states have a more difficult path to abortion rights by way of direct democracy than others — and legislative attempts to make the ballot initiative process even harder have proliferated in recent years.

“Every legislative session we’re seeing new efforts to undermine the will of the people,” Fields Figueredo said.

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California ballot measures require a simple majority of votes to win. In Florida, where abortion is banned after six weeks of pregnancy, initiatives require a 60% supermajority of votes to pass, and state Republicans recently tried to increase that threshold even higher to a two-thirds vote, or about 66%.

Abortion is banned in Arizona after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and reproductive health advocates remain leery about future access after a state court recently attempted a near total ban. Organizers say they have already acquired more than enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure to secure abortion access in November.

To get on the ballot in Arizona, initiatives must get signatures that equal at least 15% of the electorate, and the Legislature has proposed adding a new requirement for that threshold to be met in each congressional district, not just statewide. Arizona Republicans also attempted to pass a law that would have allowed the Legislature to rein in some decisions made by ballot initiatives, but ironically, that proposal had to go to voters — and was rejected in 2022.

Republican lawmakers in Arkansas and Missouri, where ballot measures for abortion rights are underway, have also tried to make it harder for residents to legislate at the polls.

The timing is no coincidence, said Mini Timmaraju, president and chief executive of Reproductive Freedom For All, formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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“They don’t have the majority and haven’t had the majority in a long time on this issue,” Timmaraju said of anti-abortion lawmakers nationwide. “They’ve orchestrated a whole mechanism to subvert and go around the majority will in this country.”

Anti-abortion activists have been working to thwart the initiatives, with some backing competing ballot measures — a move that abortion-rights groups say is meant to deter and confuse voters.

Nevada Right to Life Director Melissa Clement opposes the proposal in her state and accused Democrats of “taking one of the most difficult and traumatic decisions a woman can make and using it for political fodder.”

While organizers see newly proposed rules as strategic hurdles that make citizen led initiatives harder to succeed, Republicans who support them say that changing state constitutions is a serious matter that requires more safeguards.

Some states do not allow citizen led initiatives at all, including Texas and West Virginia, where most abortions are banned.

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As in California, abortion is legal in Nevada up to 24 weeks, and providers have reported that they have seen an influx in patients from other states. Nevada voters in 1990 passed a referendum protecting abortion rights after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of more abortion restrictions then.

Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, said even before the Dobbs decision, Nevadans prioritized “individual freedoms.” While abortion is legal in her state, she fears that the future is dependent on who is in office.

“There’s still threats out there,” Harmon said. “Even when you pass a measure successfully, you then have to go back and enforce that. You have to make the Legislature pull back old laws that are no longer constitutionally viable. You have to ask the regulatory bodies to go in there and change the regulations to match what is now in the state constitution. So this is a never-ending battle.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Congressional Baseball Game descends into chaos after protesters storm field

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Congressional Baseball Game descends into chaos after protesters storm field

Several arrests were made at the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity on Wednesday night, after individuals who appeared to be protesters of climate change stormed the field at Nationals Park in D.C.

The game, which raises money for local charities in the D.C. area, features Democrats and Republicans from the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Climate change protesters were seen chanting with signs that read, “Stop playing games with our future,” and shirts that read, “End Fossil Fuels” before several people jumped onto the field.

A group known as Climate Defiance took credit for the display in a tweet on X.

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During the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park, eight people jumped out on the field in a demonstration against fossil fuels. (Emily Hillstrom)

“Update: Eight of us have been arrested for shutting down the Congressional Baseball Game. They are behind bars now. Make no mistake: It’s the Members of Congress who should be locked up.”

The group also bragged about their mission on social media and causing the game to pause.

“We have taken the field at the Congressional Baseball Game + play has FROZEN! Congress sends billions of public $$ to subsidize deadly fossil fuels — but the police are tackling us instead. This Chevron-sponsored game cannot continue. This is unconscionable,” the group wrote. 

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Protesters on field during congressional baseball game

Climate change protesters crashed the annual Congressional Baseball Game on Wednesday evening.  (Emily Hillstrom)

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) promptly arrived and escorted the demonstrators out and the game was able to resume play. USCP confirmed that eight people were arrested.

“We are proud of our officers who are working to keep everyone safe during tonight’s Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. When eight people tried to protest on the field, our officers quickly stopped them and arrested them. The eight people are being charged with federal charges – Interference with a Member of the U.S. Capitol Police,” Capitol Police wrote in a statement on X. 

A small group of anti-Israel protesters were also spotted in the crowd. The group unfurled a Free Palestine and Palestinian flag in the right field section by the foul post. The group’s message was met with boos from others in the stands.

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS HAVE NEW TARGET IN MIND FOR MAJOR SUMMER PROTEST: ‘MAKE THEIR LIVES MISERABLE’

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This is not the first time the annual charity game has been met with controversy.

Over the last several years, the event has drawn more scrutiny after a gunman opened fire on Republicans who were at the stadium early for practice in 2017.

The Congressional Baseball Game has been held since 1909. 

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Tough-on-crime measure officially qualifies for November ballot as rifts in Legislature mount

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Tough-on-crime measure officially qualifies for November ballot as rifts in Legislature mount

A ballot measure to impose harsher criminal penalties for drug possession and theft, altering the controversial Proposition 47 passed in 2014, has qualified for the November ballot.

The measure, however, may be undercut by the California Legislature’s Democratic leadership, which is pushing a package of bills targeting the rash of retail thefts across the state. The lawmakers hope the legislation will sway voters to reject the tough-on-crime ballot initiative, and are using the bills to pressure proponents of the measure rescind their proposal.

News of the ballot measure qualifying comes just two weeks before the secretary of state releases the official slate of statewide propositions that will appear on the November ballot. It also comes as Democratic leadership made a hardball move last week by promising to add an amendment to their retail crime legislation that would revoke the laws if voters pass the statewide proposition.

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“We’re calling today upon our leaders to stop playing politics,” Greg Totten, co-chair of Californians for Safer Communities, said Wednesday during a news conference. “The Legislature’s plan to include an automatic repeal … proves they are not serious about addressing the explosion in retail theft and the state’s fentanyl crisis.”

Since voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014, the initiative has been the center of debate over whether it is the reason for the rash of retail thefts across the state. Democratic lawmakers say that the measure helped reduce prison populations and that some areas have seen property crimes go down. Republicans say the measure has led to a lack of arrests and less accountability for thieves.

The secretary of state has verified that the measure gathered enough signatures from registered California voters to qualify for the ballot, made possible by a multimillion-dollar signature-gathering effort that big-box retailers including Walmart, Home Deport and Target largely funded. The coalition has so far raised $8.5 million in campaign contributions.

The ballot initiative, called the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act, would change the law to make a third offense of theft, regardless of the value of merchandise, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. The measure also would make possession of fentanyl a felony. Finally, the measure would impose a “treatment-mandated felony” the third time someone is arrested for drug possession.

Democrats have crafted a comprehensive 14-bill package that they think will resolve the issue of property crime and drug use in California — without the need to go back to the ballot box.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly said he is against bringing Proposition 47 back to the ballot.

“It doesn’t achieve the goals that are intended. I want to do something that can be done legislatively with more flexibility,” Newsom told The Times last Friday. “We have launched a package of bills working in both houses of the Legislature that have been fantastic in addressing legitimate concerns we have been addressing for years now. Not just retail theft, but organized retail theft.”

Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Select Committee on Retail Theft, told reporters Tuesday that the package of bills was “never intended” to be stacked on top of a “one-sided ballot measure.”

“The combination of the two [efforts] is sort of supercharging this whole process,” he said. “Moving back to a period where we’re going to have much more incarceration.”

Times staff writer Mackenzie Mays contributed to this report.

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Durbin looks to force Supreme Court ethics bill vote amid Alito controversy

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Durbin looks to force Supreme Court ethics bill vote amid Alito controversy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will attempt to force a vote Wednesday evening on a Supreme Court ethics bill backed by Democrats amid recent scrutiny of Justice Samuel Alito and renewed calls for the conservative justice to recuse from former President Trump’s immunity case. 

Durbin will lead fellow judiciary committee Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., in a request to bring the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to the floor for a vote around 5:30 p.m.

However, unanimous consent to consider the measure will not be granted, as Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will object, his office told Fox News Digital. 

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Sen. Dick Durbin will attempt to force a vote on a Supreme Court ethics reform bill, but Sen. Lindsey Graham will object to it.  (Getty Images)

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If brought for a vote and passed, the bill would require the Supreme Court to create an ethics code that is publicly available. It would additionally allow for complaints to be lodged against justices and for a judicial investigation panel to then review them. 

The measure advanced out of the committee last year by a party line vote, with 11 Democrats in favor and all 10 Republicans opposed. 

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Sheldon Whitehouse, Dick Durbin

Sens. Whitehouse, left, and Durbin, right, have made a concerted effort to push Justice Alito to recuse. (Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised judiciary Democrats for their work on the bill after it advanced, saying at the time, “I support Chairman Durbin, Senator Whitehouse, and the Judiciary Committee’s work on SCOTUS ethics reform, and I look forward to working with them to make progress on this legislation.”

But since its advancement, the bill has remained in limbo. 

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Schumer’s office did not provide comment to Fox News Digital regarding his plans for bringing it to the floor. 

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Judiciary Democrats have made a renewed and concerted push to increase accountability for Supreme Court justices in the wake of the controversy surrounding Alito and his wife. The New York Times recently reported on an upside-down American flag that flew at their Virginia home in the weeks following the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, as well as an “Appeal to Heaven” flag that was on display at a beach home belonging to the Alitos. 

Democratic critics have suggested that the flags were displays of support for those who rioted on Jan. 6.

The reports prompted several letters to both Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts from Durbin, Whitehouse, and Blumenthal, which requested a meeting with Roberts and Alito’s recusal from 2020 election-related cases.

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SUPREME COURT HISTORICAL SOCIETY BLASTS ‘SURREPTITIOUS’ RECORDING AS DEMS TARGET JUSTICE ALITO

Samuel Alito talks during confirmation hearing

U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito (R), answers questions during the fourth and likely final day of his confirmation hearings January 12, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Alito has since refused to step back from such cases, which include the matter of Trump’s immunity claim in his federal election interference case, in which a decision from the court is expected this month. 

The unanimous consent request also comes in the wake of secret recordings that were taken by an undercover liberal filmmaker at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner on June 3, which featured Alito acknowledging that “there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised” when it comes to ideological differences. Alito additionally agreed with the activist’s statement suggesting the country should return to “godliness.” 

In an op-ed on Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., slammed his Democratic colleagues’ attempt to pass the legislation. The Republican explained that the court is charged constitutionally with the power to govern itself. “Liberals complain that the court’s binding ethics rules lack an ‘enforcement mechanism’ to ensure recusal when they want it,” he wrote. “But this complaint would throw the Constitution out the window.”

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“The court rightly vests judicial power in its democratically legitimate members as the Constitution requires. Democrats instead want a bureaucracy to ‘administer’ it,” he said in a scathing rebuke of the Democratic effort. 

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