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Key Issues Influencing Women’s Votes in the Current Election

-Editorial

As the 2024 elections approach, women across the country are facing a myriad of challenges that are impacting their ability to seek public office and exercise their reproductive freedom. Despite the progress made in recent years, many of the issues that sparked the feminist movement are still prevalent today, highlighting the ongoing struggle for gender equality in politics and society.

One of the key challenges women are grappling with as they head to the polls is the issue of representation. Women, especially women of color, continue to be underrepresented in positions of power and decision-making roles. This lack of representation not only hinders the diverse perspectives and experiences that women bring to the table but also perpetuates systemic inequalities that disproportionately affect women and marginalized communities.

Maya Kornberg, Research Fellow on the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice spoke about a recent joint report by the Brennan Center that sheds light on the alarming intimidation faced by state and local officeholders across the country. The report, titled “Intimidation of State and Local Officeholders: The Threat to Democracy,” explores the hostile environment experienced by elected officials, uncovering disparities that disproportionately affect women, people of color, and young individuals.

The findings expose a troubling reality: 43 percent of state legislators faced threats during their last term and most recent campaign, with 18 percent of local officeholders experiencing threats within the prior three months. This pervasive abuse impedes the normal functioning of representative government, affecting over 40 percent of local officeholders who reported that hostility had curtailed their willingness to address controversial topics or seek reelection.

The report underscores the unequal burden carried by women and people of color, who experience heightened levels of intimidation. Women of color, in particular, face threats, appearance-related hostility, and sexualized hostility at alarming rates, necessitating resource-intensive precautions. Younger officeholders also confront higher rates of intimidation, hindering their engagement with public life.

Legislators interviewed for the report shared various tactics employed to protect themselves, highlighting a notable income disparity in the precautions taken. Lower-income state legislators reported considerably lower rates of relocating homes or implementing other measures in response to hostility compared to their higher-income counterparts.

As of 2021, women of color constituted a mere 8 percent of state legislators and 6 percent of statewide executives, emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures to address the issue. The report’s recommendations aim to ensure that a more socioeconomically diverse cohort of public servants can fulfill their roles securely and effectively, safeguarding democratic representation for all.

Women are grappling with the issue of reproductive rights, including access to healthcare and abortion services. The ongoing attacks on reproductive freedom at the state and federal level have left many women feeling uncertain about their ability to make decisions about their bodies and healthcare. These attacks not only infringe upon women’s autonomy and bodily integrity but also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and stigmas surrounding women’s reproductive choices.

During his third State of the Union address, President Joe Biden took an unprecedented step by directly admonishing the Supreme Court justices regarding their recent opinion on Roe v. Wade. Specifically addressing the conservative majority’s significant reversal, Biden, while reading an excerpt of the decision, engaged in a brief aside, making direct eye contact with the justices seated in the front row.

“With all due respect, justices, women are not without … electoral or political power,” he said. “You’re about to realize just how much.

Monica Simpson, Executive Director, of Sister Song said that their organization defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

In 2010, SisterSong initiated the national Trust Black Women partnership in response to racist and sexist anti-abortion billboards that unjustly accused black women of genocide for making personal choices about abortions. Faced with this oppressive narrative, SisterSong gathered black-women-led organizations to form Trust Black Women, successfully defeating both the billboards and an associated restrictive abortion bill in the first year. Today, SisterSong is expanding the Trust Black Women partnership, collaborating with black-women-led organizations and individual black women members across the U.S. to challenge societal perceptions and treatment of black women.

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