Loud Light organizers know the dangers of extremism. As children, they grappled with the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita. As they reached voting age, they saw extremists place deliberate barriers to voting.

So, in 2022, when Kansans’ constitutional right to abortion care was threatened by a radical ballot measure, Loud Light was ready. For seven years, Loud Light had engaged young voters, and Heartland Fund’s flexible support enabled Loud Light to shift their programs and try new ideas.

Through a “joyful organizing” approach, they built a youth organizing campaign that channeled the vibe of a block party for horse girls and cowboys where the party favor is protecting our rights.

“Rural people don’t respond well to uppity,” says Advocacy Director Melissa Stiehler. “Having fun was effective.”

Loud Light’s campaign highlighted Kansans’ love for horses and horse culture while explaining misleading ballot language and the confusing timing of an August vote. The campaign was fun, community-oriented, and clear about the stakes. Youth from across the state shared stories with each other through social media testimonials and virtual text banking. At in-person events, attendees wore cowboy boots to attend “ponies to the polls.”

Extremists put the abortion vote in August in hopes of lowering turnout. But young voters exceeded all precedents with student voting rates 24% higher than the 2018 general election. Kansans voted for the right to abortion care, with small towns and rural areas demonstrating especially strong support for the issue that defied expectations.