94 Years Later, Women Need to Rock the Vote

Women—more precisely, single, unmarried women—have been on the minds of both Democratic and Republican pundits lately. Why? Because 67% of “all the single ladies” (a.k.a. Beyoncé voters) voted for Obama in the last election. On top of that, single women, who are one quarter of all eligible voters, could greatly influence who ends up holding the Senate majority in upcoming elections. This is a marked changed from the 2004 election, where pundits bemoaned the apathy of unmarried and young women who apparently cared more about shopping than exercising their right to vote—quickly termed Sex and the City voters by the media.

This August, women in the United States will have had the right to vote for 94 years. We read scores of stories about the underrepresentation of women in politics and lament the lack of women in the highest offices, but we rarely reflect on women as voters—unless we can use pop-culture catchphrases. Even more rarely do we compare women’s turnout rates to other countries in the world.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the right to vote—in the United States, women had to wait another 27 years before they were able to be heard at the ballot box. Interestingly, American women have had the right to run for office since 1788; so for some 130 years, American women could run for Congress or the presidency but were not allowed to cast votes in support of female (or male) candidates. Today, all 195 countries except one have universal suffrage: only in Saudi Arabia are women still waiting for their right to formally participate in the political process.

But the more interesting story is this: since achieving suffrage, women have been voting more and more, to the point where starting 50 years ago, women have actually voted in higher numbers than men. This gender gap has widened over the years: since 2004, the gap between men and women voters has been standing at 10 percentage points in favor of women. The same trend is observed in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand.

This gender gap is particularly pronounced for younger generations of women, forecasting major changes for future elections: once this new generation replaces the baby boomers as the biggest voting demographic, female voters will have the most influence at the ballot box. Yet this power is not guaranteed: women will need to consistently turn out to vote in every election to make politicians more perceptive to women’s needs, hopes, and opinions. Toborrow from Abigail Adams: we have been remembered, ladies, now let’s not forget to make our voices heard in every election, big or small—only when we participate in the democratic process can we change the world!

Register to vote here. November is just around the corner…

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