USA Today: More women are running for elected office, but voting still at forefront of Women's Equality Day
By Alex Connor
Women's Equality Day on Aug. 26 marks the 98th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
This year brings added significance for some, with a surge of women's names on ballots across the country. At the day’s helm, however, remains a theme passed on from year to year.
“Voting is everything,” said Molly MacGregor, executive director of the National Women's History Project. “It's important, especially today, because oftentimes people are becoming more cynical. They don't think their vote will count.”
In a comprehensive report released by the Pew Research Center in August, it was revealed that four-in-10 Americans who were eligible did not vote in 2016.
Even more so, the Twitter hashtag, #RepealThe19th, gained popularity in 2016 and was a direct jab at the amendment that gave women the right to vote. The hashtag was created after a map by FiveThirtyEight was released saying that President Donald Trump would have won with 350 electoral votes if not for women voters.
Yet women have long outnumbered men in being registered to vote and in 2016, 73.7 million women reported voting whereas just 63.8 million men reported the same, according to data by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).
Voting is worth celebrating, said Carrie Lukas, president of The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative leaning non-profit focused on economic issues, greater liberty and less government regulation and its relation to women. “People do it take for granted.”
Lukas said that her organization works to encourage women to get involved: speak your mind, remain civil and encourage a culture of respect. And there’s room for growth, she said.
Year of the Woman is credited to 1992, as voters elected more new women to Congress than in any previous decade, but the phrase has a resurgence ahead of the 2018 Midterm elections.
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, is optimistic this upcoming election cycle will set the groundwork for a new political era.
“There is no reason why there isn’t a woman running for every office in this country,” Schriock said. Her political action committee works elect Democratic women to office.
Republican or Democrat, women make up just 25.4 percent of the proportion in state legislatures and just 20 percent of the U.S. Congress. Without the diversity of voices, Schriock said, some issues may go unnoticed or unchallenged.
“By adding more and more women, and more women of color, what you get is a more robust policy debate which will result in more robust laws in this country,” Schriock said.
For the 2018 midterm elections, 54 women filed to run for the U.S. Senate, 476 filed to run for the U.S. House and 62 filed to run for governor in their state, according to CAWP. Of the number of women who filed for those offices, 72 percent identified as Democrats.
“What we’re seeing at this moment is the beginning of that change where women will work in every office and say ‘I can do that. I’m going to do that. My community needs me to do that,'” she said.
Yet many obstacles remain.
Women are changing the traditional campaign scripts – taking on once-taboo topics and pushing gender to the forefront of their political campaigns and advertising. They are scrutinized when family combines with policy. Issues of equal rights, equal opportunities and equal pay are mounting before women on the ballot and those at the voting booth.
“We just have to fight through it and continue until women no longer have to prove over and over again that they are qualified, talented and will listen, serve and work hard,” Schriock said.
And the message the resonated with suffragettes in the early 1900s still matters today: show up and vote.
“If you’re not registered to vote, register on Women’s Equality Day. That can be one of the biggest things you can do,” Schriock said. “If you are registered, you grab five of your sisters and you go register them. Because that’s the power we have, to vote.”