The United States population consists of 50.8% women, and 49.2% men – a fairly close divide – yet in every election since 1964, more women have been reported to have voted compared to men. In 2016, 63.3% of eligible female voters (citizens who are at least 18 and are legally registered to vote) cast a vote, compared to 59.3% of eligible men. This ultimately leaves women with a considerable amount of power when it comes to voting, a fact that may seem hard to believe when looking at how male oriented U.S politics tends to be as a whole. Nonetheless, women are an integral part in every presidential election, even if they are not as yet fully accepted in every facet of politics.
Women being incorporated in politics is fairly new in the USA. The 19th amendment that allowed women the right to vote was passed in 1920, and for the past century women in the U.S have had to fight hard for their rights – a fight that seems unceasing. In August of 2020 on the 100th year anniversary of the 19th amendment, Donald Trump gave a posthumous pardon to Susan B. Anthony – a well known American activist during the women’s suffrage movement in the 19th century. Although the pardoning was used as a sign to pay homage and show how far the country has come with women’s rights, it also shows how much work still needs to be done within the topic of gender equality in the U.S. Overall, women are still completely underrepresented in politics and between endemic sexism, the wage gap and laws involving their reproductive rights, many women still have to fight to be equal to their male counterparts.
Although the issues surrounding women’s rights run deeper than just politics, voting is just one step in this fight for equality. Some women may see voting as being counterproductive – especially when the candidates are almost always two Anglo Saxon males. Yet if more women were to take advantage of the power that they hold during an election and in other aspects of politics when they come together collectively, then the future of politics and the US government may look much different than the way we see it now.
Of course it is impossible to simply lump any group into one, for any meaningful purpose, but there are topics and ideas that have a tendency to engage female voters more (or less) than your average male (wage gap, war). When asked to list three issues within the U.S that if given the opportunity they would like to change, Joya Maser, 22 and Asian American, answered “I would change the prison-industrial complex, and I would work on education reform that evens out funding discrepancies between public schools in low vs high income areas.” Feeling the unrepresentative nature of the US electoral process, she adds: “I would also probably abolish the Electoral College.”
When asked the same question, Kelly Mosby, 52 and African American said “Major issues that I would personally like to work on are race relations of course, as well as inequity in public education. Another issue is the limited access to post secondary education – the cost is too high and students from underperforming high schools have no shot of getting in and being able to afford it.” Dallis Marie, 27, said “Social injustice is a major problem in the states right now, one that needs to be fixed, and as a person in the medical field, disparities in health care is another problem. For a third, I would say climate change, which affects the whole world but as a country, we contribute heavily to that issue.” Katelyn Barbour, 21, said “I would focus on our health care system, work on financial inequality and then educational inequality.”
These women are just four out of millions of women who have varying opinions on what should be prioritized in the US. Despite the possible thought that most women would only want to focus on women’s rights and equality issues – although those are still very prominent problems in the U.S – these answers show that there are a myriad of other topics women find important and want to change. The similarities in their answers also show just how aligned many women are.
The education and health care system are two battles in the United States that seem to be at a standstill with both being a primary topic during each presidential election. Women – although rarely given a voice during these debates – find these problems to be just as substantial as the men making the decisions. Women are the majority of voters, and many have similar views, so why is it that women are not more unified in the voting process?
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots, and when it came to how women voted, more than half of eligible female voters put their votes toward Clinton (54% Clinton, 42% Trump). Because the voter turnout rate was already so low in the US with 46% of citizens not voting, those votes were still not enough to win her the election.
Interestingly, when the female vote is broken up by race, there is one major exception: white women. In 2016, 53% of white women voted for Trump. Compare that to the 94% of black women that voted for Clinton, and 69% of Latina women, and the divide is clear to see. Women are not a monolith, not all think the same nor do they all want the same things, but whichever way you break it down, they are the most important group that will turn out to vote on November 3rd.
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