From the San Francisco Chronicle: “A century after the 19th Amendment, the women’s vote is as critical as ever”
“On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was adopted, legalizing women’s right to vote under the U.S. Constitution.
That momentous occasion a century ago represented the triumph of three generations of suffragists and the culmination of more than 70 years of 19th-century and early 20th-century American women making the argument that they were citizens, too, entitled to all the rights of citizenship. In reality the 19th Amendment failed to enfranchise thousands of American women of color — Black, Asian, Latina and Native American. For a variety of reasons, their access to the vote would take several more decades.
During their fight for suffrage, women circulated pamphlets, collected signatures for petitions, organized conventions and protested in the streets in the face of often hostile opposition from men — and women.
Physical and verbal abuse were common, with hecklers throwing rotten eggs and tomatoes and “shouting down” women when they spoke. Particularly painful was imprisonment, where forced feedings and beatings followed hunger strikes. Women suffragists were demeaned as unnatural, and they had to contend with criticism for advocating for voting rights during two wars — the Civil War and World War I — as well as a pandemic.
This year our country faces similar struggles amid the fight for equality, and women are at the forefront of that battle. They have organized marches of historic proportions, and they have become more outspoken about pay equity between women and men, access to health care and free speech.
As leaders of organizations getting out the vote, we can think of no better way to honor a century of women’s voting rights than to get every eligible female voter to the polls.
When it comes to equality in voting, our nation began to live up to its founding principles over the past century. In 1924, Native Americans became citizens. In 1952, Asian Americans had their right to vote protected under the law. And in 1965, the Voting Rights Act protected the right to vote for people of color, who faced racist Jim Crow laws that effectively denied them the ballot.
But we’ve also experienced setbacks.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder dismantled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racial bias in voting to get federal permission before passing new voting laws. Striking down this provision has allowed many states to again enact state voting laws that can suppress voting.
There’s still work to do. We need to close the gap of more than 38 million women — roughly one-third of eligible female voters — who did not register to vote in 2016. Women also represent more than 50% of chronically disengaged voters. To boot, turnout among female voters lacks inclusion, with Asian American and Latina voters casting ballots half as often as white and Black women.
This election year, American voters will decide on the next president as well as 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and numerous local elected offices across the country. That represents thousands of chances to help determine who will enact the laws, set the policies and allocate the resources that impact our communities, our well-being and our families’ futures. Through voting, women can be the architects of change nationwide.
The checklist is simple:
- Confirm your voter registration or register for the first time. Most states offer this online. Make sure your information is correct — including your last name.
- Vote by mail, early or absentee. This may require requesting an absentee ballot and dropping your ballot off in person. Mail your ballot by Oct. 20 to ensure timely delivery.
- Know your rights. If you are in line to vote in person, stay in line — it’s your right to vote. If a voting machine breaks, ask for a paper ballot.
Elections have always mattered. Let’s take the good lessons from the past and leave the rest. Let’s look ahead with creativity, resolve and grit. Join us in getting women and allies of all stripes to cast their ballots in 2020.”
Anna Bloom is a co-founder of Vote Like a Woman. The piece was co-signed by the Vision 2020 Voting Coalition: Vision 2020, Women Voters USA, Vote Lead Impact, Vote Like a Woman and the Voter Participation Center.