Never mind 1992 — 2012 is the “Year of the Woman.” Women turned out to vote in droves. We made up 53 percent of the electorate nationwide, and in many of the swing states, women were the majority of the electorate. Voters ages 18–29 made up 19 percent of the national turnout. And one report estimated that, of Americans in that age range, at least 49 percent (22–23 million people) voted. Lastly, women proved to be the difference for President Barack Obama, who won with an 18-point gender gap nationwide and the help of 68 percent of single women.
But women didn’t just shape this election — they broke new ground with many historic firsts:
- Reps.-elect Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) will make New Hampshire the first state to have an all-female congressional delegation — with a female governor to boot (Democratic Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan). The state assembly also boasts more women members than men as of 2010.
- Sens.-elect Deb Fischer (R-NE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will break records in the Senate to bring the total to 20 female senators, the most ever. Six female Democratic senators were also re-elected.
- Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.
- Warren will become Massachusetts’ first female senator.
- Hirono will become the first Asian woman in the U.S. Senate and the first female senator from Hawaii.
- The Republicans retained their leadership in the House, though with a slightly smaller advantage than they had in the last Congress. At least 77 women will serve in the House, up from the current record high of 73.
We voted on more than candidates though. Also on ballots across the country were referenda on marriage equality, educational opportunity, affirmative action, and reproductive rights. AAUW took positions on initiatives in Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington.
- Florida: AAUW opposed Amendment 3, which would have limited the state’s ability to collect tax revenues; Amendment 6, which would have imposed restrictions on abortion funding; and Amendment 8, which would have removed separation of church and state protections. All three measures were defeated.
- Idaho: AAUW opposed propositions that would have constrained teachers’ rights. These propositions were defeated.
- Maine: AAUW supported an initiative that would allow same-sex marriage. Voters in Maine supported the measure, and the state became one of the first to affirmatively vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
- Maryland: AAUW supported measures that would allow same-sex marriage and enable certain illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Maryland public universities. Voters approved both measures.
- Minnesota: AAUW opposed an amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This amendment was defeated.
- Montana: AAUW opposed a measure that would require doctors to give the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours’ notice before performing an abortion. This measure was approved by voters.
- Ohio: AAUW supported an initiative to create a nonpartisan commission to draw maps for Ohio’s legislative and congressional districts. This measure was defeated.
- Oklahoma: AAUW opposed a measure that would ban affirmative action programs in the state. The measure was approved.
- Washington: AAUW supported an initiative that would allow same-sex marriage. Election results were still being compiled as of this writing.
Although our efforts to advance education and equity for women and girls are far from over, today we should celebrate all that we’ve accomplished. It was our vote that made the difference, and we were heard.