Posts Tagged ‘elections’

It always surprises me that voting isn’t a more social event. After all, as Americans, we love our democracy. We love the idea of being ruled “by the people,” and yet somehow the actual process of voting becomes as personal and private as tax returns. While I understand why many people choose to keep who they voted for private, I don’t understand why voting is not something that we all do together. I simply can’t grasp why democracy, which is a celebration of ideas and minds coming together, is demonstrated by people quietly voting alone rather than with other members of our communities.

via Flickr user trazomfreakThis election season, countless get-out-the-vote campaigns will sweep across the United States to convince Americans to register and vote this November — including the AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign! Each effort will target a different audience — from women to college students to minorities — and try to show these groups just how much their votes affect their daily lives and freedoms. It’s My Vote is focused on educating, engaging, and registering millennial women voters by emphasizing how things like equal pay, student debt, and birth control access affect women. These voter mobilization efforts might have different tactics, but what they want is the same — to express the importance of each and every vote.

As much as voter mobilization efforts accomplish, they will never succeed in catching every potential voter. I know this because I work for one of these campaigns. Don’t get me wrong — the work we do is wonderful. I am filled with pride every time I hear about a successful voter registration drive or see a video of a young woman telling her personal story of what voting means to her.

But we — you and I, as individuals — can fill in the gaps missed by get-out-the-vote efforts. If you believe, like I do, that democracy is the best form of government we’ve yet sustained, then it should also be important to you that everyone in your life votes. I mean everyone — from your 86-year-old grandmother to your 18-year-old brother, who spends most of his day playing video games. No matter how insignificant our actions and our votes may seem, it will take everyone’s effort if we ever hope to reach that “more perfect Union.”

Like thousands of men and women who came before me, I believe in democracy. I believe in it enough to drag you to the polls — no matter who you are or who you vote for. So on November 6, take responsibility for more than one vote, and get as many folks as possible to cast their ballots.

This post was written by AAUW Social Media Intern Brittany Edwardes.


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Sunday, August 26, is Women’s Equality Day. This day marks the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote 92 years ago. Thousands of women and their allies worked for decades to make that day in 1920 possible. It took years of lobbying and demonstrations, passing out pamphlet after pamphlet, publishing editorials, and giving speeches to make it happen. On Women’s Equality Day in 2010, we celebrated some of the great sacrifices women suffragists made in the fight for the vote.

The right to vote was a great step in women gaining equality — many of today’s elected leaders are sticking up for women and their rights because women are a vocal constituency. But it’s not enough. Some of our representatives still believe women can’t get pregnant from rape, while others want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides millions of women with preventive care services free of charge with their health insurance.

This election year, we can harness the vote our sisters worked hard, before and after 1920, to give us by knocking this backward thinking aside and continuing our progress toward equality. So this weekend, I hope you will join us in celebrating Women’s Equality Day by getting ready for the upcoming election. Here are five things you can do right now:

  1. Register to vote. Don’t wait, or it could be too late. Act now.
  2. Find out what will be on the ballot in your state. Don’t give too much credit to the writers of ballot measures. The language can be tricky, so reading it ahead of time will ensure you vote for what you believe in. Act now.
  3. Film an It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard pep talk video. Sometimes all it takes is a connection with someone like you to make a request successful. Ask a young woman in your life about the issues that she’s voting for, and send us the footage. Act now.
  4. Send this blog to a young woman. Your reminder could be just what she needs to get inspired. Act now.
  5. Sign a petition — get involved! There are an overwhelming number of petitions on the Internet covering a huge range of topics. Sign up for the AAUW Action Network, and take a stand on important issues. Act now.

This post was written by AAUW Website Associate Marie Lindberg.

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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 May, as part of the It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, we released the first of many videos from young women talking about the upcoming election and the importance of voting. We also promised to continue to post those testimonials — all of which are available on the campaign Tumblr.

Today, we’re making good on that promise with a video from Julie Zeilinger, the founder and editor of the feminist blog FBomb. In the video, which she made exclusively for the It’s My Vote campaign, Zeilinger lists her reasons for voting. They’re all compelling, but it’s her ending that hits home. “There are already so many forces out there trying to silence” young women, she says. And it’s true. From strict voter-identification laws to people who say we shouldn’t vote, the legal and cultural barriers that young people face are real.

But that doesn’t have to stop us. WATCH, share, and vote!

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Here at AAUW’s national office, a frequent topic of water-cooler conversation is how much we love NBC’s Parks and Recreation, particularly its female protagonist, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). We have watched Leslie grapple with local government bureaucracy in the Parks and Recreation Department of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, for years. But this past season, Leslie stepped it up by running for City Council and winning!

This story line was of particular interest to my co-workers and me because it relates to the work we do on Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a program that we offer in collaboration with Running Start. Elect Her encourages and trains college women to run for student government. By getting more women interested in politics early on, Elect Her helps to build the pipeline of women running for office with the goal of diminishing the long-standing political leadership gender gap. I look forward to next season to see how Leslie continues to break barriers as a member of City Council!

Women can learn from Leslie’s campaigning strategies in Parks and Recreation. Here are the top 10 ways Leslie is a great role model for all women running for office (click the links to see clips):

  1. She got started early. Even at age 10, Leslie saw herself as a capable political candidate. One of the best ways to get more women in political office is to help them start on the path to politics at a young age.
  2. She knows her issues. Leslie stays on top of all of the issues facing Pawnee, and she can articulate her stance on any of them — and all of them!
  3. She tailors her message to her audience. Leslie knows that each community in Pawnee has different priorities, and she knows to approach each one individually.
  4. She knows how to use her network. Leslie has constructed a campaign team that utilizes all the best strengths her friends and colleagues have to offer. Smooth-talking Tom and optimistic Chris make up her media “spin team,” pragmatic and experienced Ben is her campaign manager, and even contented worker-bee Jerry is her official envelope-stuffer.
  5. She is composed in the face of media scrutiny. Having gone head-to-head with Pawnee Today host Joan Callamezzo many times, Leslie is able to defend her actions and ideas on television without hesitation.
  6. She is prepared for the double-edged sword. Like many women in power, Leslie is all too familiar with the pressure to appear determined enough to be taken seriously — but not so much that she comes off as too aggressive or mean. She powers through these expectations and keeps her message clear.
  7. She embraces servant leadership. Sure, Leslie is ambitious (her goal is to become the first woman president), but it’s not because she is hungry for power. Leslie is Pawnee’s biggest fan, and she is running for City Council because she desperately wants to serve its citizens.
  8. She sticks to her principles. Although it is tempting, Leslie does not let her campaign stoop to negative attack ads.
  9. She gets out the vote. Right before the election, Leslie and her team are not shy about getting her name (and face!) out there in a big way.
  10. She is closing the gender gap in political representation. By running for Pawnee City Council, Leslie is taking one more step toward political parity for women. Currently, women make up only 23.7 percent of state legislatures and 16.8 percent of the U.S. Congress. When women run for office, they win at the same rates as men. So what we need are more women like Leslie to run!

Learn more about these issues and strategies by attending or hosting an Elect Her training on your local campus.

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AAUW regularly receives updates from alumnae about their work and significant milestones in their professional lives. A few weeks ago, we received a very unique and profound update from Evgenia Mylonaki, a 2009–10 AAUW International Fellow. Although AAUW is a non-partisan organization, her take on Greece’s financial crisis highlights the importance of remembering how global and national issues affect individuals, especially when most global news coverage reflects a detached, high-level perspective. We welcome your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

“One Paid Song,” courtesy of the artist, Eirene Efstathiou, and Eleni Koroneou Gallery

People plan like this: We say, “If it rains, I will not go to the park.” We wait to see what happens, and then we act.

Three years ago, life in Greece started depending on other kinds of things — things that people couldn’t avoid or plan for.

First it was the bonus cuts: If I don’t get a Christmas bonus, I will not have my teeth fixed. Anger.

Then it was the pay cuts: If I don’t get a 30 percent pay cut, I will save for my daughter’s college tuition. Pain.

Then it was the layoffs: If I have a job next month, I will pay back my loans. Frustration.

Then it was unemployment: If I find a job next month, I will pay the new tax on my electricity bill. Anxiety.

Then it was borrowing: If no one gives me a loan, I will end up on the streets. Panic.

Then it was the new taxes and more loan payments: If no one does anything to change this whole situation, I will not be able to live. Despair.

Before 2009, time in Greece used to move along linearly like yours: First I go to school. Then I get a degree. I find a job. I make a family. I have kids. I help them through school. And finally, I retire to enjoy the rest of my life. After 2009, this time line for Greeks was violently replaced by spikes of anger, pain, frustration, anxiety, panic, and despair.

But not everyone in Greece lives on this new time line. There are corporations in the country right now that are growing, but they still cut paychecks and lay off employees. Those who support the corporations say that profit exists in the present only if the gains are visible in the future.

And not everyone in Greece experiences each point of this new time line in the same manner and at the same time. Some are laid off later than others. Some find lousy jobs, but some find no jobs at all. Some move to their parents’ houses, while others take to the streets. Some can no longer afford to have a car, and some can no longer afford to feed their children on a daily basis. Some migrate, some kill themselves.

In the beginning, some people hoped that the new time line would not affect them. They simply waited.  But most realized that the disruption is unrelentingly approaching, coming their way, threatening them and their lives.

People asked themselves the question of politics. If the old political order is not re-established, I will be disabused of the illusion that my silent sacrifice had a point. Claustrophobia.

If a new political order is established, I may get disappointed yet again. Fear of hope.

The first elections came, and claustrophobia gave way to hope. You should have been here to see the smiles. Then we got ready for another election.

There was a fork in the time line.

If Greece were to be thrown out of the eurozone, I would not be able to think about the future of my life. The unthinkable.

If Greece is not released from austerity measures — which take away our jobs, our pensions, our houses, our social security benefits, and the future of our children — I will not be able to live the life that befits a human being. The unlivable.

Some representatives of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund said that Greece could stay in the eurozone only if the Greeks voted to inflict more austerity measures upon themselves. And these institutions said that the Greeks were free to choose between austerity in the eurozone and life outside it.

The second elections came. Fear won over hope by a small margin. We who fight for hope look at each other, and we see human beings in need of freedom.

We say that austerity in the eurozone is unlivable and that life outside the eurozone is unthinkable. And we say that no human is free who is called to choose between the unlivable and the unthinkable.

This post was written by 2009–10 AAUW International Fellow Evgenia Mylonaki.

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.


Nothing Can Stop Elect Her at NMU!  — Northern Michigan University

We were very fortunate to have a wide variety of speakers this year. Sheri Davie, former aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), had a wealth of experience to share. Through her connections, we received a special video correspondence from the senator herself, which was unforgettable.

Mardi Gras and Gumbo — Loyola University, New Orleans

The tasteful and talented Judge Regina Bartholomew candidly shared the realities of running for office as a woman in Louisiana. She laughed at the audacity of people who judged her status as an unmarried woman and sighed while describing naysayers who wrote her off because she lacked political clout at the time. She shared with the attendees how she developed a coalition of supporters and how she believed in herself.

Inspiration + Media Math + Determination = Victory — Mount San Jacinto College

Our media expert, Mount San Jacinto College Director of Public Information and Marketing Karin Marriott, focused on how to craft and communicate an effective message. She highlighted the importance of remembering “media math” when conveying a message — you can deliver three points three times and reasonably expect your audience to remember one of them. “So, be concise, be clear, and repeat,” she said.

Teamwork Wins Votes — Georgian Court University

Before the event, Wilsar Johnson, the student organizer of the training, had warned me that GCU women are “pretty competitive.” Once the campaign simulation began, I saw exactly what she was talking about. After I explained the exercise to the group, students wasted no time in forming their teams and devising their strategies. The winning candidate — Melissa Farley, who earned 27 votes — appointed a driver, a campaign manager, and a number of field officers to create the most efficient system for collecting votes.

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

The New South — Georgia State University

Student Government Association Vice President of Student Services Grace Lee’s story not only empowered participants to consider running for office on campus themselves but also to start thinking strategically about electing the university’s first woman SGA president. Many of the young women left the training with new ideas about how they can lead and serve!

Making the Decision to Run — Stony Brook University

It was no coincidence that the date of the training was also the filing deadline to run for this year’s student government elections. We know that this Elect Her was a success because at least five students who were on the fence about running for office at the beginning of the training filed for their campaigns by the end of the day!

West Indies Women Win  — University of the West Indies

Student Services and Development Manager Nadeen Spence set the perfect tone for the day by talking about the impact that Elect Her has had on the student government at UWI. When the trainings began three years ago, the university had not elected a woman student body president in 12 years. This is especially shocking because almost 80 percent of the students are women! After the 2010 Elect Her training, a woman was elected student body president, and today both the president and the vice president are women.

Expanding On-campus Traditions with Elect Her  — Washington and Lee University

From the moment I walked onto the Washington and Lee campus, I could tell that I was dealing with a different breed of students. They expect each other to behave ethically and honorably and understand that they also must uphold these standards themselves. With such a proven capacity to meet and exceed expectations, I couldn’t help but wish that the campus held such rigorous standards for gender equity in student leadership opportunities.


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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

Students Learn to Nurture, Encourage, Inspire, and Empower Others through Leadership  — Denison University

Hannah Frank, Denison’s  current student government president, is the first woman to hold that position in seven years. An education and English major, she likens her experience as a teacher to her role as president: Her duty is “to nurture, encourage, inspire, and empower others.”

Women Rise to the Challenge of Leadership  — Pacific Lutheran University

Kate Pritchard, who won the workshop’s simulated campaign, remarked, “My favorite part of Elect Her was hearing from the politicians who spoke. I’ve heard that the more you see something, the more true it becomes for you, so simply seeing successful women in politics makes it seem more possible, more realistic, for me as a woman to consider working in politics. And they were just awesome people, so it was an honor to hear from them.”

Ready, Set, Go! Preparing a Generation of Women in Politics  — University of North Carolina, Wilmington

North Carolina state Rep. Susi Hamilton began her speech by talking about “starting with a purpose.” She was very energetic and excited about seeing so many young women interested in politics. She opened with a series of short video clips that told of the harsh realities many women in North Carolina politics face, including negative interactions with their male counterparts. Participants were shocked to learn about the ways in which women are still being treated in politics today.

University of North Carolina, Wilmington, students share their elevator speeches during their Elect Her training.

The Women of Willamette Are Ready to Run!  — Willamette University

As the training progressed, I was impressed by how acutely aware participants were of the challenges women in politics face. We talked about how female candidates are covered by the media and perceived by voters and how they are often treated by their colleagues. We also talked about how to overcome these challenges, and I reminded students that if they want to change the system, they have to get in the game and just run!

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

Adding More Women’s Voices to Eliminate the Wage Gap — University of Wyoming

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) emphasized that Wyoming has the highest pay gap in the United States and that more women need to run for office to address this problem. In Wyoming, women earn 65 cents, on average, for every dollar men earn. Nationally, the figure is 77 cents.

Don’t Be Afraid to Throw Up … and Other Lessons — Idaho State University

Sharon Parry, an Idaho Falls City Council member, gave a fantastic speech about her political leadership on the council. When she ran for office, she was opposed by a female incumbent and two men, and she did not sugarcoat how hard that experience was. She was told when she announced her candidacy that “we do not need another woman on city council.”

Wright State Women Prepare to Lead  — Wright State University

Participants had the opportunity to reflect on both local and national issues that recently inspired them to take action. From tuition hikes on campus to attempts to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, students spoke about the issues that affected them and discussed solutions to address those issues.

We’re Half the Population, So Why Aren’t We Half the Government?”  — Boise State University

Madison Hansen, who participated in the training, said, “I’ve always been a proponent of women holding office — we’re half the population, so why aren’t we half the government? But I hadn’t really considered running for anything myself. However, after participating in Elect Her, I am planning on running for office on campus next year. Elect Her taught me not only that I should do it, but I can do it.”

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Since the numbers remain grim for women in Congress and state legislatures, where can we train the next generation of women political leaders? AAUW and Running Start collaborate on Elect Her–Campus Women Win, the only nationwide program that trains college women to run for student government, to answer that question. Elect Her–Campus Women Win will reach 30 sites in 2012, spreading across the country from George Washington University to the University of Cincinnati to Willamette University. With campaign experience in college, we can count on these women to be our political future.

Women make up approximately 52 percent of all student government representatives but only 43 percent of student government presidents (according to data collected from nearly 5,100 institutions for 2011–12 by the American Student Government Association). These figures align with a Princeton University study that revealed that women on their campus do not take on high-profile leadership roles, particularly in student government.

On October 18, AAUW and Running Start hosted two events to launch the 2012 Elect Her training sites and provide an update on the status of women in political leadership, from college to Congress. The first event, a women’s leadership “dial-in discussion,” featured Kate Farrar, director of leadership programs at AAUW; Jessica Grounds, executive director at Running Start; Krystal Ball, political analyst at MSNBC and former congressional candidate; and Ebonie Simpson, Elect Her alumna and vice president of student life at Duke University.

Ball praised AAUW and Running Start for training women to run for office in college because the sooner women gain the confidence, skills, and practice the better! She decided to run for Congress at the age of 27. At that time, there were only two women in all of Congress under the age of 40. Ball lost her race, but said, “The day after the election, life went on. I have all the opportunities now that I could not have imagined … none of it possible without facing down my fears of running.”

Simpson was instrumental in bringing Elect Her to Duke last year, where — out of 40 senators — there were only 12 women, and the executive board and cabinet were dominated by men. Simpson credits the training with her decision to run for the high-level position of vice president of student life. She knows she now has the practice and skills to make a future run for Congress!

On the same day as the launch events, AAUW also hosted Cocktails and Convos, a monthly happy hour in the Washington, D.C., area designed to spark conversation on women’s issues. The event was dedicated to Elect Her this month and brought together women of all ages — as an attendee, I was able to talk to women who managed political campaigns in the ‘90s and young women who are just now thinking about starting their political careers.

This year, Elect Her–Campus Women Win will train hundreds of college women to run and win on their campuses. We want you to follow their stories and support their campaigns! Stay connected with Elect Her on Facebook, and look out for blog posts with highlights as trainings happen this spring.

This blog was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Jessica Kelly.

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