Why vote?

Why vote?

By Martha Bedell Alexander
Former Representative
North Carolina House of Representatives

Back in the early 90’s I decided to pursue an elected office. I had thought for a long time about running for the state legislature. I took the leap and ran for the state senate. The polls showed I would only receive about 18% of the vote. There were people encouraging me to drop out of the race. I remember thinking that if I dropped out of the race and decided to run another time people might not pay me any attention and would not think I was a serious contender because I might drop out again! The bottom line is I received over 40% of the vote in that election.

The next election cycle I ran for the state house. And this time I won the primary by 49 votes. When the recount was completed I gained one more vote. So, I actually won by 50 votes! In this particular election whoever won the primary was the winner since the other party did not have a candidate in the general election. I had the privilege of serving for twenty years. And, only 50 people elected me to office. Look around you today in your office, on the street, in the grocery store and realize you have probably seen more people in those environs than put me in office. Each person’s vote counts.

Back to ‟why vote?”

Many times, particularly in major elections on the state or national level it is sometimes hard to see why it matters. Thousands of votes are cast. Someone might wonder ‟where is my vote?”

After taking the time to vote is the happiness of the voter if the person’s candidate of choice wins; but there is the major disappointment if the person’s candidate is not the winner. What is important is the fact that within our democracy we have the opportunity to vote. And it behooves one to understand that by casting a vote for someone is showing the support of the ideals that candidate has put forth.

By casting a vote also is a sign to the winner that there are people within their constituency who have a different opinion on issues. It gives the winner a way to gauge the issues that have been discussed or ones with which they are confronted. And, by voting the voter has the opportunity in advocating for their causes to remind the winner they are voters and part of their constituency.

There are many ways to learn about the candidates. Newspapers, television, social media, public forums, mailings and a candidate’s campaign events are a few resources to learn more about them. Also, speak to your neighbors, other employees, family and friends. Someone you know might know one of the people running for office. And, do not forget that from the local board of elections you are able to have information about how to contact the candidate. Try to learn about all of the candidates, because you never know who might win and who will be a contact for you on specific issues.

It is also very important to find out the various election contests for the primary and general election. It is imperative to understand the whole ballot is important from local, state and national candidates to those who are running in the judicial branch or other specific offices.

Sometimes people only vote for the president and do not vote for anyone else. That is why I would like to urge you to become aware and knowledgeable for all offices. Each office has a major role to play in either an administrative, legislative or judicial manner. Staying home and not voting is not a very good option. It is giving away our privilege of voicing our opinion. Elected officials are making decisions, rulings and laws which affect us all. Join them by adding your voice as one of their constituents. You can make a difference. Invite someone to join you. Take someone to vote. Do not have an empty car.

Your VOTE makes a difference. I know that personally.

Martha Bedell Alexander
Former Representative
North Carolina House of Representatives


What’s Next for Women in this Election?

What’s Next for Women in this Election?

By Antonella Iannarino, @TheWomensDebate

There is a pervasive misunderstanding of women’s issues and the social structures that continue to put up barriers to equity. In a study released last August, respondents answered that when a 2016 presidential candidate said “women’s issues” he or she meant either equal pay or abortion rights. Further troubling is the disparity between the belief in equality—77% think women should have equal positions in solving community and national problems—and the understanding of how much power women actually have. Women make up only 20% of Congress but more than a third of respondents believed that women have equal power at the national level.

Issues that affect women and girls, and often disproportionately, extend far beyond reproductive rights. Women have not had a representative seat at the table, and it shows in how the broader definition of women’s issues has been largely ignored in this election cycle.

The Women’s Debate was formed to ask our presidential candidates to begin addressing the economic, safety, and health concerns that affect all of us every day.

As Jose Zeilstra wrote in the Huffington Post earlier this year, “Women make up more than half of the American population and turn out to vote more than men, so we expect to be taken very seriously during this presidential election.”

Here, then, is our plan for what’s next.

Originally published by United State of Women Summit blog. Reposted with permission from The Women’s Debate.

Whose Shoes are You Wearing? Women Look Beyond Their Experiences

Whose Shoes are You Wearing? Women Look Beyond Their Experiences

Whose Shoes are You Wearing?
Challenging Women to Look Beyond Their Own Experiences

By Sheri Cole (@bflysmile) for @WomenVotes

As I sit down to write this blog post, I am having trouble focusing. There is too much to say about the election and why it’s important for women to vote and make our voices heard. But then as I tease apart what that statement means, I get lost in contradictory thoughts.

On one hand, if women were to band together and vote as a block, we could sway any election. We are over 50% of the population after all. This was actually one of the arguments against giving women the right to vote during the suffrage movement. Men in power have always feared women connecting and organizing, and this has led to both institutions designed to keep women separate and a political system that disadvantages women.

On the other hand, 20+ years of feminist studies have taught me one thing: there is no such thing as ‘women.’ Just pull up Twitter and click on any Tweet that talks about a “woman’s issue” and see the diversity of opinion. And I’m not talking about political issues like equal pay or maternity leave, but general statements about fashion or beauty or motherhood.

Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Didn’t take long to get to a comment that says – “I’m a woman and I don’t agree” – did it? (And it probably wasn’t that civil, either… but that’s a topic for another blog post!)

Because that’s the crux of it: women and our opinions are not monolithic. And furthermore, there has not been a diversity of women’s experiences and opinions represented in our government or leadership.

The history of the “women’s movement” is a history of diverse thoughts and issues. What is defined as a “women’s issue” to me might not be to another woman.

And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is using that fact to try to divide and discount our opinions. As I write this, a song comes into my head: I wish you’d take a walk in my shoes for a start / You might think it’s easy being me / You just stand still, and look pretty.

Replace the last line with another statement about a woman’s experience.   We are all guilty of putting our experience at the center of our politics and opinions, and that’s only natural. But we have to challenge one another to think beyond our own experiences. To walk in another woman’s shoes and try to see the world from her vantage point.

When I feel the crunch at the end of the month of not having enough money, I stop and challenge myself to think what life is like for the single mother who works for minimum wage and can’t afford to stop at the grocery store for eggs and milk at the end of the month.

And what if our politicians did the same thing? What if our Senators and Mayors thought about how every policy would impact not only their lives, but the life of the citizen whose life is different from theirs?

So back to my original question… why do women’s voices matter?

Because not only do my experiences as a woman drive my political views, they are also an experience that has not been a part of our political discourse as much as they should. Sure, there are male politicians who strive to represent people different than them, and there are female politicians who vote in their own self-interest. But I’d submit that the more women who are engaged in the process of voting and running for office, the more “women’s issues” will cease to be defined as such, and just be “issues.”

Imagine a world where we see the following “women’s issues” redefined:

Maternity leave is universally defined as parental leave because not only can a caregiver could be a woman or a man, but all families who have children have to deal with child care issues.

Men stand up for equal pay for women and people of all races because the less money women and people of color make at work, the less money families have to pay for basic necessities.

This isn’t a utopian world of the future. We have examples of other countries that have made this shift in their thinking. And what do they have in common? Women are represented at greater levels in their executive and governing leadership.

In America, we are at a crossroads – regardless of your political views and identity – as we nominate the first woman to potentially lead our country. But even if Hillary Clinton is never elected President, breaking this barrier means that we are now focusing on women’s voices in a way we haven’t before.   It will lead to more women being inspired to run for office, and some of these women will win! And when they take their seats at the table, they need to look beyond their experiences and walk in another woman’s shoes to understand her experiences.

And before we step into the voting booth, we need to do the same thing. So, whose shoes will you try on today? And what will they feel like? Will walking around for a while in them change your views?

I think it will. And I think our collective lives will be better for it.