It seems amazing that less than 100 years ago, married women didn’t have the right to own property or to sign a contract. She had no right to the wages she’d earned and had no custodial right to her own children. Things we completely take for granted today. On August 26th each year, we celebrate women getting the right to vote, an important event that started to change these laws with Women’s Equality Day.
It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment, giving white women the right to vote, was passed after a long, hard 70-year battle to make it happen. It wasn’t until much later, in fact 46 years later in 1966, that women of color were allowed to vote. It’s just been since 1971 that people aged 18 to 21 could exercise this right. I’ve often become frustrated that things aren’t changing fast enough for women, that we’re still having to fight for wage equity, a presence in the C-Suite, and in government offices. I can’t imagine the tenacity it took to get one of our greatest rights – the right to vote and the power to have some say over our own lives.
Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other early pioneers of the women’s rights movement organized the first conference in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. At that meeting, they passed the Declaration of Sentiments, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. Reading this Declaration today, I realize how it still applies. The forward-thinking people that drafted and narrowly passed this resolution, realized the most important issue in this document is the right to vote. That to “demand equal station”, “absolute tyranny over women” would have to change. One of the things that had to change was that women were expected to “submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.” Without this voice, nothing could change and getting the right to vote became the main goal of the movement.
When you look over the timeline of when different groups of people have received, or had removed, their right to vote, it’s obvious this has to do with power. People in power don’t want to give up their power, so allowing people to vote changes things in the most authoritative way we can. Change never happens without a fight and strong people that will speak up and stand together in the grueling struggles for change. We can’t wait for people to hand us our rights, we have to continually work together for them.
Just as our foremothers knew, one of the most impactful ways to stand up for our beliefs and create change toward equality is by voting. By helping choose who makes the laws, we’re able to put people in office that promise to represent our interests. Voting is one of the most important things we can do as citizens, even when we don’t like absolutely everything about the candidates. Rather than giving up this important right, looking into which candidate most closely aligns with our values, no matter what party they represent. Placing a vote makes a huge difference in our lives locally and nationally in ways that may not always be obvious. Like we’ve just seen in the primary elections, many races are won, or lost, by a small number of votes.
Make sure you’re registered to vote
If you live in Kansas and haven’t voted before, or in a while, don’t fret. It’s easy to register and this is a great time to start. You can register online here, or you can print out a form here, and mail it in. If you’ve moved, changed your name, or want to change your party affiliation, you simply re-register. Easy, peasey!
If you live in Kansas and don’t know if you’re registered, where to vote, or what district you’re in, click here for the official secure Kansas voting site. To be able to vote in the election in November, you must be registered by Tuesday, October 16, so don’t delay! I’m determined to help more people vote in this election. I’ll have materials to register to vote at all Finishing School classes and will be supporting events to help people get registered.
Research your candidate
It can be a lot of work to research the truth about what the candidates stand for. The political ads are starting to ramp up, some containing lies meant to scare us into or out of voting for particular candidates. The 411 Voter Guide, put together by the League of Women Voters, lets you put in your address and learn more about who will be on your ballet, biographical information on candidates and their answers to specific questions. There’s a lot more information on this site about where you can meet the candidates, check your registration and polling place, register to vote, and more. It’s kind of a one-stop-shopping for all things election.
It’s great to get more people registered, but it’s doesn’t mean a thing unless we actually cast a ballot. According to a recent article about our expectations of elected officials, I learned that in August’s state primaries, only 23.2 percent of registered voters in Kansas even bothered to vote. This was a huge improvement from the 2017 primaries, when only 8.4 percent voted. It may be easy to ignore that, because traditionally less people vote during primaries. But, the number that showed up to vote in the actual 2017 general election was only 8.3 percent, less than showed up for the primary! And that’s just registered voters. Pew Institute estimates that 21.4 percent of the population don’t register to vote.
Need a ride? I like to vote in person at my polling place on the day of the election. It’s like a neighborhood party, and I always see friends there. You get the “I voted” sticker too. But, one of the big reasons people don’t vote is because they can’t get to their polling place. The website CarPoolVote should be up and running in time to find a ride to the polls if you need one. Lyft is giving 50 percent off coupons for rides to the polls. Ask a friend – ask me – for a ride if you need help.
Need an alternative? Maybe November 6 isn’t a good day for you to go vote, or it’s hard for you to get away. No worries! There are alternatives to voting on election day. You can vote in advance. You can vote by mail. You can even vote early in person. There are so many ways to vote, there’s really no excuse.
There are so many ways that you can stand up for your beliefs and help spread the word. On Tuesday, September 25th, the Finishing School for Modern Women is having an Activate: Leading with Purpose panel discussion. Britten Kuckelman, my co-organizer for the Conversations to Action program we put on in June, is helping with this. So far, Brandi Calvert, the organizer of Wichita Women’s March and Claudia Armano, an activist that works on closing the gaps between cultures in Wichita are confirmed for the panel.
It saddens me what low percentage of people in the United States participate in elections, especially considering how long and hard the fight for the right to vote was and how many people sacrificed so much to win and keep it. We owe it to them to do the easy thing and get off our keisters to put a mark on a ballot. It is more important now, than ever, to make your voice heard.
Happy Labor Day Weekend!
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