August 26th is Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Yet even with that constitutional amendment, many women faced- and continue to face- barriers to exercising that right.
In recognition of this, we asked Lynn Yeakel, Junior League of Philadelphia Sustainer and founder and president of Vision 2020, a national coalition of organizations and individuals working together to achieve economic, political and social equality for women, to provide us with a greater understanding into women’s right to vote, and what obstacles still exist for women’s full civic participation:
How important is it for women to exercise their right to vote?
It is incredibly important for women to cast their ballots – something we weren’t even allowed to do 100 years ago. Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, we have historically been underrepresented in government at all levels, which makes our participation in the political process all the more important. We need to have political representatives who understand and value issues that directly impact women and families. Democracy is not complete without the perspectives of women fully included.
Is the right equally accessible to all eligible women voters in America? If not, why and what can be done to change that?
No, which is troubling because voting access is essential to ensuring that all U.S. citizens are able to fully participate in the democratic process. Discriminatory voting practices exist to suppress turnout among specific groups who might vote against a particular person or issue. This can silence the voices of women, people of color, senior citizens and residents of low-income communities, among other marginalized groups. It’s important that we pass voting rights reforms at the federal level to ensure every voter has a fair chance at casting his or her ballot.
What are the barriers to access for eligible women wishing to vote?
Some discriminatory voting practices that create barriers for eligible women include strict laws on voter ID requirements, voter registration, and cutbacks on early voting options. Many women have multiple responsibilities and complicated schedules. We need to make it easier for them to vote.
Thank you for your insight Lynn!