Won the Right to Vote in 1920...So Why Not Use It?
Press (Newport News, VA), August 15, 2004, p. J1
many Virginia women aren't counted
some history, Virginia style:
Did you know that the U.S. Constitution was amended in 1920 to give
women the right to vote, but the Virginia General Assembly did not vote
to ratify the women's suffrage amendment until 1952?
ask? Virginia's efforts to suppress the rights of women were closely
linked to efforts to disenfranchise black voters. A report issued in
1941 concerning Virginia's poll tax and other barriers to voting
imposed on black voters by the 1902 Constitution said that "fear of
large numbers of Negro women voters" fueled opposition to the women's
suffrage amendment that was "decisively rejected" by the General
some more recent Virginia facts to put history in a
women don't register to vote or turn out to
vote with the same frequency as women in more than 30 other states.
1992 to 1996, Virginia ranked 36th out of 50 states in the number
of women registered to vote (fifth out of nine in the South Atlantic
Region) and 33rd out of 50 states in women's voter turnout (third out
of nine in the region).
you might ask again? Perhaps it is because
Virginia remains a state in which it is more difficult to cast a ballot
than in many others. While other states have encouraged initiatives
designed to make it easier to vote, including voting by mail, "no
excuse" absentee voting and early voting, Virginia has resisted efforts
to make voting more accessible. For example, in 1999, former Gov. Jim
Gilmore vetoed legislation that would have allowed anyone to cast an
absentee ballot for any reason. Virginia continues to require voters to
have one of nine specific reasons to vote absentee. Unfortunately, none
of those reasons is: I am a woman with a full-time job and full-time
family responsibilities who finds it difficult to get to the polls.
take a look at some interesting recent research about voting and
views of young women and unmarried women.
-- according to a study
by Women's Voices. Women Vote. -- if unmarried women had voted at the
same rate as married women in 2000, there would have been 6 million
more voters. Add to this that these potential voters are economic
populists and social progressives who actually think that government
can be a positive force for change. A close election could have turned
into a landslide if candidates had worked to connect with and drive
these voters to the polls.
last month Rock the Vote and
Lifetime TV released the results of a joint study of 1,000 women and
1,000 men that found a disconnect between the issues women voters (and,
particularly, young women voters) care about and what the candidates
are talking about. According to the press release announcing the
nine of 10 undecided women (nearly one-third of those
surveyed) said that a candidate's stance on equal pay (90 percent),
preventing violence and sexual assault (89 percent), women's health
issues (88 percent) would influence their vote. More than eight out of
10 cited access to child care (84 percent) and balancing work and
family (82 percent) as issues that would greatly or somewhat impact
please, not a single reference to choice or guns
also, that fewer than one in 10 women said that they'd
heard a "great deal" about these issues from the candidates or in the
then, is the prescription for action?
every presidential election since 1980. According to Women's Voices.
Women Vote., unmarried women now make up about 20 percent of the
electorate nationally -- more than NASCAR dads (6 percent) and as large
a share as Latino, African-American and Jewish voters combined.
Democrats should stop wringing their hands about whether their party
and their candidates appeal to NASCAR dads and tax-phobic men over 55
and worry more about connecting with, registering and turning out women
(and minority) voters in Virginia.
can't make it easier to vote in
Virginia before the 2004 elections, but we can certainly make women
voters more passionate about registering and voting.
listening. All we need to create the emotional spark -- the "torque,"
as I call it -- that helps drive women voters to the polls, is for our
candidates to speak loudly, and with authenticity and concern, about
the everyday issues of concern to women highlighted in the Rock the
Vote/Lifetime poll: equal pay, preventing violence against women,
caregiver issues, work/life balance, women's health. Issues that appeal
to the sandwich generation and Gen-X alike. Issues that appeal to real
women with real lives.