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Groups putting abortion on the Florida ballot believe they have the signatures they need

Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights outside the Orlando City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux
/
AP
Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights outside the Orlando City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

Starting immediately, the almost 10,000 volunteers who have helped gather signatures to protect the right to abortions will begin to focus on the next phase: Convincing people to actually show up and vote next November.

Groups behind the push to put abortion rights on the Florida ballot next year have reached a major milestone: They believe they have collected all the signatures needed to put it to a vote.

The petition aims to place a state constitutional amendment to protect the right to an abortion on the 2024 ballot.

It would protect abortion rights in Florida up to about 24 weeks of pregnancy, which is generally when a fetus is considered viable. This was the previous standard used in Florida, until the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was struck down last year, reversing nearly five decades of national abortion rights protections.

Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban, passed last year. A 6-week ban was passed earlier this year, but it will only go into effect if the 15-week ban is upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

To put an abortion rights question on the ballot, a total of 891,523 verified signatures are needed statewide by February 1, 2024. As of right now, a total of 753,694 have already been verified, according to a state database. Hundreds of thousands more are already in the verification process, which can take a month to complete.

“We’ve done 1.4 million petitions, we have a verification rate north of 70%,” said Anna Hochkammer, the executive director of Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition, one of the six groups behind the ballot initiative. “We know that we have enough petitions, we know that data shows that we qualified in all the congressional districts, and so we’re now shifting to phase two.”

READ MORE: Abortion rights amendment closer to getting on the 2024 ballot, says group

Starting immediately, groups will cease collecting signatures.

County Supervisor of Elections offices charge a fee per verification, and organizers feel it would be a waste of money to continue to collect signatures, said Hochkammer. They feel with the verification rates holding steady, the math clearly works in their favor.

The almost 10,000 volunteers who have helped gather signatures will now begin to focus on the next phase: Convincing people to actually show up and vote next November.

“I couldn’t ask for a better scenario from a grassroots perspective,” said Hochkammer. “These people are invested, trained, comfortable, and have been engaging in grassroots politics on this issue for almost six months.”

In state after state, when abortion rights have been placed on the ballot after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade verdict last year, pro-choice voters have been successful.

The Florida Supreme Court still has to approve the language of the ballot measure, an effort being challenged by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Moody’s office typically challenges citizen-led efforts to put questions on the ballot.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.