On November 4th the polls will be open in Virginia and across the country for the General Election. This means that seats in both the U.S. State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will be on the ballot. These elected officials make crucial decisions that shape our country and our daily lives. Yet turnout at the polls for non-presidential elections are historically low, especially amongst young women voters. With fewer people casting their vote during non-presidential races, the elections are decided by a smaller group of people. If more young women made their voices heard at the polls in these elections, their message would be much more powerful and influential. Statistics show that the older the voter, the more likely they are to vote. This means that elected officials will be inclined to give more consideration to the concerns and demands of older generations since they are the ones who put these legislators into office. An ideal government is one that has input from all of its constituents and gives due deference to the needs of society as a whole.
It is time for our elected officials to make issues that reflect the concerns of young women a priority. This will only be done if young women become more actively engaged in the political process. It is time to make our presence known. Issues such as climate change, investment in early childhood care and education, as well as women’s health are major issues that should be a priority for our nation. We must rally for more women to exercise their right to vote.
There is a measured difference in the way women and men vote called the gender gap. The gender gap has the potential to be very influential and was decisive in the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election, with women casting 8 million more votes than men. Young women voters must add their votes into the mix and work towards a government that is more reflective of the will of all its people. Women make up half of the US population but are still severely underrepresented in our Congress, as well as in our state and local legislative bodies. Women currently hold 18% of the U.S. House of Representatives and 20% of the U.S. Senate in the 113th Congress. Currently all members of Virginia’s U.S. House and U.S. Senate are held by men. Let’s consider women candidates in the upcoming election to bring some diversity and equal representation to Virginia.
Going into the November 4th Election, there will be new obstacles to overcome. Virginia has enacted a new voter ID law that will be in effect for the upcoming election. This law requires all voters bring a valid form of photo ID that is less than 12 months expired to the polls on the day of the election. Virginia issued student photo IDs will suffice this requirement. Although remembering to bring a valid photo ID adds an extra step in the process to political participation, we cannot let these hurdles deter us from making our voices heard.
With partisan politics causing gridlock in Congress, it is easy to get discouraged and feel like avoiding politics all together. However, if we feel the system is broken, then it is time to do something about it to get our government productively functioning again. Remember, women ages 18-24 are the least likely age group among women to turn out at the polls. Our voices are currently not being heard as loudly as they should be. All voters must demand more from the candidates, vote in every election, and keep in contact with their legislators to hold them accountable for their actions (or inactions). It is time for young women to fully exercise their right to vote which was fought hard for and won by our foremothers 94 years ago this August. We can begin by making our voices heard at the polls on November 4th.
You must be a registered voter to participate in the November election. The voter registration deadline is October 14th. Visit the Virginia State Board of Elections website, sbe.virginia.gov, to check your registration status/access online voter registration, see a full list of acceptable forms of ID, find polling locations, submit an absentee ballot, and find answers to other voting related questions.
About the author:
Brenna Perez is a senior at ODU studying for a Bachelor’s in Biology with a Political Science minor. She intends to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. Beyond her interests in scientific fields of study, she proudly identifies as a feminist who strongly values social equality for all.