I have been asked this question enough times to be inspired to write an answer. The idea began in December 2019 when I was asked to give a speech about what has happened for women’s advancement in the century since the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, and women had the right to vote.
As the new year began, I started talking with friends and colleagues about how we could commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage. Many of these friends are now on the team leading this nonpartisan campaign to inspire women to vote in 2020. I reflected on past nonpartisan voter engagement efforts that I coordinated in 2006 with a network of women’s groups called Engaging Women and in 2008, with a network of disarmament groups called Peace Impact. We used what we called a “trusted sources” approach of respected organization leaders urging their members to register and vote. In every case, all participating organizations performed above the national average, and new voter turnout by these groups was significantly better than the national average.
I also remembered times I was asked to prepare discussion leader guides and encourage people to watch films on TV about women’s suffrage. PBS aired Ken Burns’ film, Not for Ourselves Alone in 1999 and my outreach through women’s groups inspired hundreds of viewing parties around the country to watch and discuss community issues and the need to vote for candidates who share voters’ views. In 2004 HBO asked me to do the same, and I encouraged viewing of its docudrama about Alice Paul called Iron Jawed Angels. Again, hundreds of viewing parties inspired discussion of the importance of voting for candidates with shared views.
But the most compelling reflection on my path to understanding the imperative of voting in a democracy is when I was the Executive Director of the National Abortion Rights Action League – NARAL in the 1970s. I initially believed my work was going to be easy because the vast majority of Americans supported the right of a woman to choose when or if to have a child; the Supreme Court had recently ruled Roe v. Wade making abortion legal in most cases, and my conversations with members of Congress convinced me that the majority favored Roe v Wade. However, in the mid-’70s, the Catholic Church and then Evangelicals began mobilizing parishioners to vote against candidates who supported the right to abortion, and everything changed. NARAL started its nonpartisan political action committee in 1976, and we started mobilizing NARAL members to register and vote. At that time, support in Congress was bipartisan. Ever since then, my professional and personal activities have been focused on getting out the vote.
What better time to inspire and mobilize women to vote than 100 years after women got the right to vote! It is not enough to have the right to vote; we must vote and get out the vote.
Thank you for joining us as we help the trusted sources who lead our fantastic partner organizations encourage their members and contacts to themselves become trusted sources as they encourage friends and colleagues and family to vote.
Democracy works best when its citizens are informed and engaged in the election process.
Every Woman Vote 2020