Not Flexing Our Rights

August 26 marks the 87th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the
United States. Recognizing the arduous efforts made to claim our
right to vote is important, and there’s been remarkable progress
getting women into voting booths.
According to Women’s eNews, female
voters have consistently outvoted male voters since the 1980s.
During this year’s anniversary, however, it’s also important to
keep in mind that there’s still a lot of work to be done when it
comes to getting women to the polls. As Women’s eNews
notes, ‘In the last presidential election, 8 million women
registered but did not vote; another 36 million potential female
voters were not registered at all, according to the US Census
Bureau.’

So, why are so many American women avoiding the ballot box?

Some reasons for low voter turnout sound remarkably lame.
Kassidy Johnson, a Feminist Majority Foundation campus organizer,
tells Women’s eNews that, ‘I really believe the things
that hold us back are normal, everyday things. You forget, you
can’t find a babysitter or you don’t want to stand in line all
day.’ A similarly mundane explanation comes from Joe Goode,
executive director of Women’s Voices Women Vote, who explains that
unmarried women — a sizable and quickly growing demographic —
don’t vote because ‘[t]hey don’t have the same social network or
are not as politically engaged as married couples. ?The second
major thing holding them back,’ Goode goes on, ‘is cynicism towards
politicians and politics.’

Such hurdles seem like they should be easily overcome when
compared with the obstacles facing female voters and candidates
elsewhere in the world. Take the case of Kenya. Organizations such
as the Institute for Education in Democracy and the League of Kenya
Women Voters are working to protect female candidates as Kenya’s
next presidential election in December draws nearer.
Women’s eNews explains that in the
past, gangs hired by rival candidates violently discouraged women
from participating. In Sierra Leone, although women’s suffrage
began nearly 50 years ago,
Inter Press Service reports that many
women are unaware of election dates or don’t know that they can
vote for ‘a candidate of [their] choice.’

Such barriers may humble our light excuses, but there are
struggles facing female voters in America that are far more
daunting than laziness or cynicism. Women’s eNews reports
that abused women are often reluctant to register as voters, as
they fear that their whereabouts will become publicly accessible to
their predators. Women in nursing homes have been taken advantage
of by people who offer to help fill out their absentee ballots, but
don’t actually take the resident’s political choices into account.
Cultural paradigms also hamper women who emigrate from countries
with limited voting rights. So while we celebrate the progress that
has allowed so many women to cast their ballots, let’s also resolve
to work harder to ensure the ability for each woman — here and
across the globe — to exercise that right.

Go there >>
Millions of Women Still Fail to Cast
Ballots

Go there >>
Kenyan Women Push Back Against Campaign
Violence

And there >>
Making a Voting Right a Voting Reality

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