Happy Election Day! While local, off-year elections might not seem as sexy as a Presidential election, they are nonetheless extremely important. This is why I bundled up my toddler and endured the additional in-and-out-of-the-car-seat drama to hit the polls today.
I take voting very seriously. Not only because of my family legacy (thanks, Susan B. Anthony!) and the women before me who faced threats, imprisonment and death to secure our right to vote, but because even today, this right is not universal.
Yes, on paper all Americans are enfranchised. But the reality is starkly different. Thanks to the seemingly endless roll-out of state voter ID laws, for example, some people — primarily minorities, low-income communities, the elderly and women — are finding it increasingly difficult to cast their votes. Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, conservatives are pushing these laws hard and fast. They are imposing stringent restrictions on mail-in ballots, eliminating Election Day registration, reducing early voting periods and requiring government-issued IDs at polling locations.
You might be wondering why this is such a big deal. And while I’d love to go on and on about this, I’ll leave it to the fine folks at the ACLU to explain it in depth.
I will, however, touch on why this is such a big friggin’ deal for women voters. For starters, women are a strong voting bloc. In 2008, 10 million more women than men voted in the Presidential election. And last year, women came out swinging during the 2012 Presidential election, aiding Obama’s win. We also play a central role in local elections, like today’s. Our vote is powerful. It counts.
So when a large voting bloc, like women, is facing hurdles and voting restrictions, the potential impact is huge. Our political landscape would be completely different right now, were it not for women voters.
Unfortunately, with voter ID and similar laws, many women are facing voting obstacles. The (married) name on your driver’s license doesn’t match the (maiden) name on your voter registration? Sucks for you. Now you have to sign an affidavit affirming your identity before you can vote. And this doesn’t affect just a sliver of women: according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 66% of women do not have identification with their current names. Are you a working mother who relies on early voting because juggling work, child(ren) schedules and waiting on long voting lines isn’t logistically feasible? So sad, too bad.
What can we do to amplify our voices and votes in light of these voter disenfranchisement attempts? To start, bring our daughter(s) to vote with us! Expose them to the voting process early and underscore the importance of civic engagement. Show them that our vote counts now and their vote will count one day as well. Make no mistake about it: when women vote, women win!
Snap a picture of you with your daughter at the polls and use the hashtag #GirlsVote. Let’s make it trend!