Dear women voters:
It's our time, ladies. A midterm election looms, and the focus is on us! Politicians and pundits alike know that there's no crossing the electoral finish line without women voters in their corner. But are the candidates seeking to represent us talking about the issues we care about?
The media has reported that some candidates are, unbelievably, avoiding talking about social issues. I guess the new mantra is, "If you can't say something that women voters will like, say nothing at all." Other candidates have said that equal pay and access to birth control are not issues that voters care about. And some groups are trying to appeal to women as if voting were the same as dating (Just say yes to the dress, er, candidate!). Besides being downright insulting, none of these scenarios reflects the power of women's vote -- our vote. As the majority of voters in 2012, women dictated the outcome of elections. The voting gender gap is expected to be larger than usual in many states this year. Candidates need to be clear that they ignore us at their own peril.
We want the facts, and we need to speak our minds between now and November 4. And on Election Day, we need to vote in our interests. Let's start conversations about the issues that affect us and our families -- especially if candidates avoid, obscure, or minimize our concerns. Candidates who aren't talking about women's issues (which, let's face it, are family issues) are ignoring not only a key voting bloc but also an essential part of an elected official's duties. No surprise here: Politicians routinely make decisions on issues that affect women and families, including our paychecks, access to reproductive health care, and education funding. We need to know where our candidates stand so that we can identify those who would best represent our values and those who would roll back our rights.
Prepare yourself with these conversation starters for forums, debates, town halls, letters to the editor, interactions with campaign staff, and more:
- Ask current members of Congress about their votes or co-sponsorships on important legislation. The AAUW Action Fund's Congressional Voting Record scores members of the 113th Congress' votes on priority issues for women and girls. The voting record shows that the 113th Congress did little overall to help women, although almost 140 representatives and senators received a 100 percent score for their attempts to advance these priority issues. Learn how your members stack up.
We cannot allow the 2014 campaign to only cover what candidates want to talk about. It must focus on what we, the voters, care about. Women voters -- and non-voters by virtue of their absence -- will determine many races this November 4. We need to spread the word now that not talking to us and not addressing our priorities is risky business for any candidate. We need to ask tough questions, start conversations, and -- most important -- vote. Remember: Elections are decided by the people who actually show up.