Women, Get Yourselves to the Voting Booth!

women need to vote in 2014 mid-term elections, gender gap, paycheck fairness actDear 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 have 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 reflect 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:

1. 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.

2. Ask candidates what they plan to do about the gender pay gap. Go armed with a fact sheet that shows the pay gap in your state and for each congressional district; plus, the fact sheet ranks the congressional districts from smallest gap to largest. In 17 congressional districts, women’s median earnings are less than 70 percent of men’s median earnings. Yet some members of Congress don’t support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and, even worse, some also act like the gender pay gap is a figment of our imaginations. (You’re obviously just choosing to make less, ladies.) Find out if your candidates will help close the gap.

3. Ask candidates about their positions on policies that would help our families make ends meet today and create better futures for our children. Voter guides for key Senate and gubernatorial races provide head-to-head comparisons on issues like equal pay, paid sick days, the minimum wage, public education, reproductive rights, and college affordability. We deserve to know our candidates’ positions on all these issues. Our economic security may depend on it.

4. Tell your candidates that you’re a fair shot voter. Pledge to vote and act on behalf of policies that would help women and families, including the minimum wage, equal pay, paid sick days and paid family leave, women’s health, and access to affordable, quality child care. Ask candidates what they will do to help women have a fair shot to get ahead — and not just get by.

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.

As the American Association of University Women’s vice president of government relations, Lisa Maatz works to advance AAUW’s priority issues on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in coalition with other organizations. She is a sought-after speaker across the nation and in our nation’s capital and has a large and devoted following on Twitter. Lisa also provides leadership to several coalitions working to advance opportunities for women and girls, including the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education and the Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition. Recently featured in the book Secrets of Powerful Women, Lisa has developed a reputation for her strategic approach to legislation and advocacy. She has done similar work for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Older Women’s League, and was a legislative aide to U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Her grassroots advocacy career began when she was the Executive Director of Turning Point, a battered women’s program recognized for excellence by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Image via iStockphoto

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