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, on Facebook, and on Tumblr for the latest updates, and check out our weekly Campaign Update for news, resources, and ideas.
The stakes in this election, especially for women and girls, are enormous. You might think your vote doesn’t count. But one vote made the difference for women’s suffrage in 1920 when Tennessee became the last state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. A handful of votes in key precincts made John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush president in 1960 and 2000, respectively.
The people elected today, on November 6, will vote on pay equity, Social Security, and reproductive choice. Economic issues are also of major concern to women. Pay inequity affects family income. Two-thirds of women in the workforce function as primary or co-bread winners. Working women still typically earn 77 percent of what men earn. According to 2011 census data, a Michigan woman working full time typically makes 74 cents to a man’s dollar. This affects every paycheck as well as lifetime earnings, retirement, and Social Security benefits. Yes, women are concerned about economic issues.
College affordability affects the economy. Higher education is a necessity to equip the workforce to handle decently paid jobs. Students graduating in 2010 owed an average of $25,250 in college loans. Loan repayment has a significant impact and leads many to defer marriage, graduate education, or major purchases.
Job creation and economic opportunity are critical issues. Women lost proportionately more jobs in this recession, particularly in the public sector. Programs that help the most vulnerable were cut and remain on the chopping block. Women lost 71.2 percent of the jobs cut between June 2009 and September 2011. When children live in poverty — as many as 1 in 4 in Michigan do — this is an economic issue.
The Affordable Care Act offers women’s preventive health care services without co-pays or cost sharing, including birth control. Some women are already receiving this benefit, and when most health insurance plans renew in January 2013, this coverage will expand to millions of women in this country. Contraception is a vital part of women’s preventive health care. The vast majority of women use contraception, but the costs for many are a burden. Every woman should have the ability to make her own informed choice regarding her reproductive life. The Affordable Care Act also includes maternity care and well-woman visits. This is an economic issue.
Elections matter. Michigan Sens. Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D) voted in support of 90 percent of AAUW’s legislative priorities in the 112th Congress (January 2011–December 2012). Rep. Dan Benishek (R), who represents my district, voted for zero. Check out the legislative record of your senators and representatives with the AAUW Action Fund Congressional Voting Record, and consult the AAUW Action Fund voter guides to see the positions of the presidential and select Senate and House candidates.
Vote as if your life depends on it — because, in many ways, it does.
Karlyn Rapport is the public policy chair for the AAUW Marquette (MI) Branch.
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