With so much going on in the world today, it’s hard to determine which issue(s) will drive voters in the upcoming midterms, and who they will choose to represent them. Young women (ages 18-29) in battleground states are motivated in large part by women’s rights – namely abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment – and are highly motivated to cast their ballots, supporting initiatives and candidates who reflect their views.
“Despite constant reports in the media on inflation and rising prices as the top issues in this election, abortion and women’s rights are actually the most important for young women as they head to the ballot box,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms.
They’re not alone in their rush to the polls. More women of all ages plan to vote this year, perhaps more than at any time before. AARP reports that an overwhelming majority of women voters aged 50 and over say they are certain to vote this November (94%), and 80% of women voters rate their motivation to vote at a 10, with economic and social issues being top of mind. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in mid-October reports that half of all voters say that they are more motivated to cast a ballot because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Three-quarters intend to back candidates who support abortion rights, compared to 17% who plan to vote for candidates who want to limit access. In fact, 50% of 1,534 adults KFF polled say they are more eager to vote in the midterms due to the fall of Roe, up from 43% in July and 37% in May. Add to that the fact that 51% of voters in states with abortion bans are more motivated to vote, compared to 32% in states that protect abortion access. These numbers may also account for a number of Republican candidates softening their abortion stances in this election cycle.
It’s important to note that while the fall of Roe may make the current discourse seem like it’s entirely about reproductive freedoms, there’s more to it, a lot more. The Center for Reproductive Rights points out that Roe actually binds together an entire class of personal freedoms, all part of the Constitution’s liberty doctrine. “Roe was a watershed decision, and its place in constitutional doctrine does not begin, or end, with abortion rights. Instead, Roe is one in a line of seminal opinions through which the Supreme Court has developed the liberty doctrine as a source of substantive rights. Those rights encompass abortion, but extend much farther.” In fact, overturning Roe threatens the constitutional foundations for a range of other liberties, and women are alerted to other personal liberties that may be affected and how elected representation might protect those rights.
The Brookings Institute points out that women vote more often than men – in the 2020 presidential election, women constituted 52% of the electorate compared to 48% for men. Brookings also pointed out how in 2020, women cast their ballots for women up and down the ticket, calling it “The Year of the Woman Voter” and wrote that the election was driven by the increasingly overwhelming determination of a significant number of women from every demographic. But as the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University points out, “Women are neither a monolith in their political beliefs, nor a unified voting bloc. Not all women are moved by the same issues and concerns, and cross-cutting identities of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation often pull women voters in different directions, particularly in the hyper-partisan context of American politics.”
We Need Women to Lead
One hundred years ago we saw the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, six years ago we had a woman running for the highest office in the land, and four years later Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. When she was sworn in, we – at last – had a woman in the second highest office in the land who understands juggling the demands of a career with the needs of a family, why you need to choose your own reproductive journey, the importance of equal pay, and who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections. We need women who possess that same understanding at every level and who are empowered to help make your voice heard.
Why women? According to RepresentWomen.org, representation is powerful, and is a fundamental pillar of a functioning democracy. Yet here we are, in 2022, and half of our population is underrepresented, not just nationally, but at every level of government. “Leveling the political playing field clearly benefits women candidates, but what does this do for all women? And what about the other half of the population? As it turns out, advancing towards gender parity not only empowers women, but also strengthens our democracy and serves the entire nation.”
Women also lead differently. RepresentWomen.org notes that while we have had anecdotal evidence of women in political office working together and problem solving, there is also new quantitative data to support those claims. “The challenges and life experiences unique to women inform their policies and leadership styles, meaning they tackle issues from different angles than men do. By better representing women’s perspectives, we can revitalize and diversify policymaking.” In addition, American University finds that women legislators “work harder for their constituents.” Women also tend to prioritize minority needs and focus on family and healthcare more than their male counterparts.
Women also have a different approach to power, and legislate with their eyes on those they serve, benefitting their communities and our nation as a whole. As Gloria Feldt writes in her book No Excuses, “Culture has taught women that power means “power over,” a concept that has been drummed into feminine consciousness through traditional, heavy-handed masculine leadership. When women re-think power as the ‘power to’ accomplish their goals, they want to own it and use it in an entirely different way.”
It’s a given that we still have a way to go when it comes to equal representation. However, as the issues become more gender specific, it is important to have women seated at the table, who can represent our voices and keep the issues that impact us, our families, and communities front and center. Remember, women lead differently, and care deeply about those they serve. Congresswoman Cori Bush summed it up best when she said in her acceptance speech in 2020 that she loves the people who elected her and those she represents, and it is with that love that she will fight for everyone in her district. This is why it’s crucial to get more women serving in public office. That kind of dedication and perspective completely changes how we are governed. It starts in our communities and at the ballot box when we elect women at every level to lead us, to fight for us, and to build a country with a government that works for us all.