I Vote for Women Everywhere
On August 26, 1920 women in the U.S. won our right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Almost 100 years later, there are still women world-wide who cannot vote, either due to laws or social pressures. Honor our collective right to vote by voting... on behalf of women everywhere.
The other day I met Marisa, a 24 year old woman who has lived in Washington state for the past ten years and has never registered to vote. She is eligible to do so, but she believes that our system of government is essentially corrupt and that voting won't change the system. The extraordinarily low voter turnout in recent elections would suggest that many people share her cynicism. Only 34% of registered voters turned in their ballots for the Washington state primary election in August.
I vote because our elected officials are making decisions that directly affect me, my family, and my community. I vote because I care about the environment and about people, and because I believe that children have a right to clean air, clean water, food that is safe to eat and wilderness left to explore. And sure, I also worry that our government is corrupt. In this age of Citizens United, when billions of dollars are being spent to try and influence (or, as Marisa would suggest, 'buy') elections, it's hard not to be cynical.
Like Marisa, I feel sad and angry that Washington state has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country, underfunded and overcrowded schools, too many laws protecting polluting industries and too few laws protecting our environment. But faced with so many problems, I have to decide what to do with my sadness and frustration and anger. Do I say that my vote doesn’t count, so why bother? Or do I say to myself that it is more important than ever to try and do something to make things better.
For me, voting is an act of faith that things can change.
And as a mother I need to believe that things can change for the better because, like other mothers around the world, I am in love with my two beautiful daughters and I want to protect them. I'm also scared because, among other things, I know that they will be increasingly affected by a warming planet. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when I read that this past July was the hottest month ever recorded or when I listen to stories on the radio about the latest massive flood or devastating forest fire. I can't help but worry about the children and parents here in Washington State and around the world who are suffering because of the affects of climate change, because of the floods, the fires, the storms, and the droughts.
For me, the answer to fear is action.
I feel far less worried and concerned when I feel like I am doing something to try and make things better. It's also important to me that my children know that I am working on the issue of global warming and that I believe that we, as individuals and in community, can make a difference.
So I vote, but in the last two years I've also started to take action in other ways.
Unlike Marisa, I believe that voting is a way to have a voice and that it is a way to participate in government. But I also believe that the voting public must take the time to get involved, and actively work to make things better.
So this November, I hope that every CoolMom will turn in their ballot and that mothers everywhere will channel their fear and frustration and anger by showing up, standing up and speaking up for our planet, and for the people in Washington state and around the globe who are most vulnerable.
The one way to be absolutely sure that your vote won’t count, is if you don’t vote. So register to vote; do some research about candidates and issues; find a progressive voter's guide if you are confused; and then vote on every race or issue on your ballot. Do so, as an act of faith that the world can change for the better. As mothers, we need to believe that.
This blog was rerun from a previous blog posted for Women's Equality Day.
Anne Miller lives in South Seattle and is an educator, an activist and a CoolMom. She is also a founding member of the South Seattle Climate Action Network as well as the Westside Environmental Justice Group.