The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard voter education and turnout campaign represents an unprecedented investment in making women’s voices heard in the 2012 election. Follow us on Twitter and on Tumblr for the latest updates, and check out our biweekly Campaign Update for news, resources, and ideas.
In an unfortunate convergence of events, many newspapers began closing down their state capitol bureaus at about the same time that states gained more power in the early 1990s. The result was reduced accountability — and that’s where AAUW of Ohio has stepped in.
Our state legislators often pass laws under the radar that negatively impact AAUW Public Policy Priorities. AAUW of Ohio was particularly alarmed after the last state legislative session, when our elected representatives passed and signed many bills that we believe to be damaging to public education, reproductive freedom, civil rights, and voting rights.
Two bills became well-known even outside of our state — the infamous union-busting Senate Bill 5 and the vote-suppressing House Bill 194. Citizens successfully rallied against both. In the case of S.B. 5, they collected 1.3 million signatures to put the issue on the ballot, and the bill was defeated in 2011 when 61 percent of voters cast ballots to overturn the law and only 39 percent voted to keep it. H.B. 194 was another story. Over the unanimous objections of state Democratic legislators who said the action was unconstitutional, state Republican lawmakers voted to repeal parts of H.B. 194 rather than allow citizens to vote on it. In the process — because it was not a full repeal — one onerous provision that had been passed in H.B. 194 remained. The provision eliminated voting on the weekend before the election. Fortunately, two lower courts have since ordered that early voting be restored, and on Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the state’s appeal of the lower court decisions. This means that early voting will proceed during the weekend before the election.
Many other bills that became law, including several related to public education, reproductive freedom, and voting rights, barely made a blip on national or even state news. AAUW of Ohio decided that it was time to shine a light on these actions, and we mobilized to create a voting record modeled after the AAUW Action Fund Congressional Voting Record.
We introduced the concept of an AAUW of Ohio voting record at our state convention in April 2012 and provided a template for each branch with detailed instructions about how to help. This incarnation of the project called for each branch to review only the legislators in its local area. Several members of the AAUW Heights-Hillcrest-Lyndhurst (OH) Branch, which is located in suburban Cleveland, elected to take the project one step further — they developed a document modeled closely after the Congressional Voting Record that covered all legislators in our 14-county district. Their investment of time meant that all the other branches in northeast Ohio had to do was simply make a few edits to include information about their branches and copy the document for presentations in public meetings.
As AAUW of Ohio public policy co-chair, I was very gratified to see this level of initiative and involvement, and I recognized the value of the expanded project. I worked to develop charts detailing the votes of our state legislators in several other AAUW of Ohio administrative districts, including Northwest, Central, and Southwest. AAUW of Ohio Web Manager Paula Maggio created an entire section on our website to feature our AAUW of Ohio Voting Record.
We are now in the process of sending out news releases to Ohio media about the project, and we’re identifying like-minded organizations that might help spread the word to Ohio women before the upcoming election. We were thrilled when the AAUW national office offered to e-mail a targeted list of Ohio women about our voting record as well as provide assistance in developing tweets to promote the project.
AAUW of Ohio believes in the importance of participating in the political process and letting legislators know how we feel about the issues. Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, that kind of communication has broken down in Ohio. We hope our project will help restore greater political dialogue in our state and educate voters in advance of the November election.
To check how your Ohio state legislators voted on AAUW priority issues, consult the AAUW of Ohio Voting Record. To check how your U.S. representatives voted on AAUW priority issues, consult the AAUW Action Fund Congressional Voting Record.
This post was written by AAUW of Ohio Public Policy Co-Chair Jackie Evangelista.