Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Every other November 6th, I ask my friends, “So are you voting tomorrow?”

Needless to say, I’ve heard every excuse and argument in the book.

You forgot to register. You saw what happened with the 2000 elections, and you don’t think your vote counts anyway. None of the candidates is especially appealing to you, and you’d rather not be forced to choose the better of two evils. You’re just not a political person. All of those nasty smear ads on TV are confusing, and a big turn-off. You meant to stop by the polls, but you were just really busy that day. Or, my personal favorite, you refuse to stoop to contribute to a system which is, in your opinion, farcical in terms of achieving real democracy.

As something of a skeptic myself, I understand where this type of disenchantment comes from. In recent years, the level of corruption at the highest echelons of government has become too obvious to ignore, often reinforcing beliefs held by many that the political structure is not a trustworthy one. What happened with the electoral college six years ago was certainly discouraging. And, I will be the first to admit that, at times, I’ve felt overwhelmed by the sheer Orwellian overtones of it all. But let’s be realistic: it’s not a conspiracy. Even though our forefathers were rich old men who didn’t give a thought to the rights of women or people of color, they did get one thing right: checks and balances. It’s a beautiful concept, or at least it’s meant to be. But a system that’s designed to be of the people, for the people, by the people, is not going to mirror its constituents if they do not care enough to vote. It’s just not going to work. Legislative elections are the very meat and potatoes of democracy—there is no electoral college. Your vote directly determines who will represent you and your community in our nation’s forum.

There are a unique set of challenges facing the woman who votes. Often, women are encouraged to simply vote as their husband does. They certainly are not targeted enough in campaign ads or outreach, and there are precious “spin-free” few media outlets that focus on educating women about the candidates and issues that are most likely to concern them. And, of course, we are significantly underrepresented in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. However, we also happen to comprise a huge chunk of the electorate. Women aged 18-40 are more likely to vote than our male peers, but we’re still teetering around the fifty-percent range. What about that other fifty percent? Everybody has a reason to vote, because everybody is affected by the outcome of an election. This year, with a record 2,431 women vying to join the 240 female “holdovers” who weren’t up for reelection this year, we’re looking at a more female-friendly Congress than ever before.

There are a myriad of issues which directly affect younger women at stake in this election! Are you and your partner married? If not, the medical benefits, domestic violence statutes, and other forms of protection offered to you by the state could be in jeopardy. This affects you! Do you make a living wage, or think that the minimum wage should be raised? This affects you! Do you, or do you plan on having children that you will be sending through the public school system? This affects you! Do you think women should have the option of a safe, sterile abortion? This affects you! Do you want to keep paying exorbitant gas prices or develop cheaper, safer alternative fuel sources? This affects you! Would you be comfortable in your kids’ sexual education if all they knew was abstinence? All of this effects you! And there’s so much more. I’ll spare you the piece about how women fought for the right to vote for years and how not voting is a betrayal of your heritage if you promise to just do it. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Organize a carpool, or find one that already exists in your area. Do whatever you have to do. Just do it!

Here are some neat links to voting initiatives and resources for the educated female voter.

Voting Vixen
Women's Voices, Women Vote
Emily’s List’s WOMEN VOTE!
Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement
League of Women Voters


Katy said...

Awesome entry! Your writing is really compelling as well as interesting :) And what you say about women being expected to vote like their husbands and other men is true. A friend of mine was recently at a parade with her boyfriend, and there were some political candidates walking through and handing out things. She told me that NOT ONE of the men shook her hand (they shook her boyfriend's hand) and not one of them gave HER a flier (these also went to her boyfriend). I was so appalled at this overt sexism! They didn't even try to hide it, which is the most shocking part! Oh yeah, she did get one handshake...from a woman candidate.

valiens said...

Right on. It's truly vital to our system, and also a true piece of pie with no electoral college in these elections.

Here's a good spin-free site I like, it gives a just-the-facts-ma'am run-down on the politicians based solely on their voting records and direct quotes: www.ontheissues.org. It's got a quiz for practically every election and gives you your most likely matches. At the very least you can look at how the candidates voted and talk about the issues.

It's funny you don't give the speech about earning the right (well, you do a little...), because it's the one I find most compelling. It's the speech I give myself when I'm feeling complacent. People in the world this very day are dying for the right to vote. Never mind being a woman.

I guess I'm more libertarian (small "L"), so the issues for me aren't often addressed by the candidates in the first place, and if they are, they aren't necessarily important enough to make me a single issue voter.

My favorite argument? If you don't vote, I don't want to hear any complaining.