Stacey Abrams Campaign Calls On Brian Kemp To Resign As Georgia’s Election Chief

Abrams spokeswoman Abigail Collazo told CNN in a statement that Kemp should step down.

Source: Stacey Abrams Campaign Calls On Brian Kemp To Resign As Georgia’s Election Chief | HuffPost

Today Is the Anniversary Of The Voting Rights Act—But For Too Many Women Of Color, Voting Rights Are Far From Secure

The Voting Rights Act passed on August 6, 1965. For African American women, this was meant to deliver on the promise of the 19th Amendment to the U.S.

Source: Today Is the Anniversary Of The Voting Rights Act—But For Too Many Women Of Color, Voting Rights Are Far From Secure | National Organization for Women

NOW Launches National Action Campaign

With women’s rights facing more severe threats than we have seen in decades, NOW is fighting back. We are standing up for the rights and well being of all women, in all our diversity and in all communities. We are showing up for our allies in Muslim communities, in immigrant communities, in LGBTQIA communities. We have a message for Donald Trump and every politician enabling his white male supremacist agenda: We are leading societal change and promoting feminist ideals — and you need to get out of our way.

I am thrilled to let you know that today we are launching NOW’s expanded National Action Program. This program encompasses five action campaigns that not only defend the gains we have made, but also work pro-actively to achieve real equality for women and girls.

  • Our campaign to Mobilize for Reproductive Justice will work to defeat Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and we will fight to defeat Trump’s Alternative Health Care Act (Trumpcare), which would defund Planned Parenthood, drastically cut maternity care coverage, and imperil access to birth control. We will also promote pro-active bills like the EACH Woman Act to guarantee full coverage of abortion care in all plans including Medicaid–thus permanently repealing the Hyde Amendment–and the Women’s Health Protection Act to stop states from using deceptive legislation to shutter abortion clinics.
  • Through our campaign to End the Sex Abuse to Prison Pipeline, we will urge the Title IX coordinators in middle and high schools around the country to ensure that students who are survivors of sexual assault receive the wraparound services they need in order to stay in school, recover from their trauma, and thrive. Survivors in far too many public schools, especially girls of color and LGBTQIA students, face penalties, punishment, and school pushout instead of the trauma-informed services they need.
  • Our campaign to Advance Voting Rights recognizes and responds to the impacts on women in communities targeted by right-wing voter suppression schemes. We will work with our allies in the civil and human rights communities to overturn measures like racial gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and voter purges. And we will work with our civic engagement allies to encourage women of color not only to vote, but also to run for public office and for leadership roles in their political parties.
  • Our renewed campaign to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment includes working for ratification of the 1972 ERA by three more states (to meet the constitutional requirement that three-fourths of the states ratify a proposed amendment), as well as supporting a start-over strategy for a new ERA, and engaging younger women and girls in the struggle for women’s constitutional equality. In this effort, NOW is committed to an inclusive and intersectional ERA interpretation that includes equitable access to all aspects of reproductive health care, and centers marginalized people including LGBTQIA individuals, immigrants, women of color, and women with disabilities.
  • Finally, our campaign to Protect Immigrant Rights will work with our allies in the immigrant rights community to oppose Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban and to stop the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s abusive raids, detentions, and deportations that tear families apart. We will in particular work to keep restaurant workers safe from abusive enforcement tactics, knowing that the restaurant industry employs over one million undocumented workers, second only to the construction industry.

NOW’s national action program will propose concrete actions our local chapters, state organizations, members and activists can take, as well as anyone in the general public interested in addressing such issues, along with resources and platforms for engagement. The program will also grow and evolve as we respond in very real-time to the harmful and discriminatory actions of Donald Trump’s administration.

As NOW members and leaders, your role is central to our success. The tools created by the NA Program are intended to be helpful for you as you engage your communities, and your representatives, both locally and nationally. We want to hear from you: your successes, your challenges. How can we better support and equip you to do this important work? This program will strive to increase engagement at all levels of NOW–from the local to the national–and to build unity among our thousands of dedicated grassroots activists across the country.

This is undeniably a challenging time for all of us. But we have been so inspired by the millions of people who have already stood up and committed themselves to resistance just in the last few months. Let’s build on this momentum and make sure this current administration knows we are here, we are watching them, and we are prepared to take the necessary action to defend our rights–and especially the rights of the most marginalized across this country.

Defending real liberties

By Gilbert Schramm, Newport News Times “Viewpoint”, August 18, 2016

I sometimes see letters here by people who claim to be concerned about defending our constitutional liberties. This should make me happy, yet on issue after issue, I often find their outcry for liberty is a sham — a cover-up for implementing a quite dierent and more sinister agenda. Time and again, a vague abstract “liberty” is used as a motive to restrict or even violate a very clear, obvious, vital American right.   

The right to vote is the very core of our constitutional democracy. Over the last decade, a large number of states have passed laws that disenfranchise legal voters. Without exception, these laws were promoted by Republicans. In case after case, they failed to show evidence of any widespread voting fraud. Yet, arguing that a single fraudulent vote violated the rights of other voters, they passed restrictive, unnecessary and intrusive legislation that knocked literally millions of legal voters othe rolls in states vital to presidential elections.   

A few years back, the GOP argued that the Voting Rights Act was no longer necessary,   that racial discrimination had ended in the South. What a farce. Again they made a false case for liberty, arguing that states’ rights were more important to liberty than the rights of real people who were still the obvious victims of systematic institutional racism. The GOP Congress has managed to paralyze any correction of this problem.   

There was no more blatant a violation of a basic liberty (property rights) than the illegal bank foreclosures on homes that was practiced during the 2008 mortgage collapse. Republicans have fought against making restitution to victimized homeowners and prosecuting guilty bankers ever since.     

What about a woman’s right to make choices about her body? Conservatives have asserted that the liberties of beings who don’t even fully exist outweigh the real liberties of living women. Recently GOP senate candidate Marco Rubio proposed banning abortions for women exposed to the Zika virus, thereby condemning these women to a pregnancy fraught with potential tragedy and a lifetime of potentially   serving as a caregiver to an essentially brain-dead child. Will Marco be there to help?   

In Oregon last winter, armed intruders occupied a public wildlife refuge. Their action effectively prevented the public from using that land. They justified this criminal act with an outlandish interpretation of liberty.   

In Texas, millions of children will be deprived of a $1.3-billion contribution to their right to good education because the GOP governor there thinks that asking them to share a bathroom might somehow violate some other (unspecified) student’s rights.     

The second amendment, specifically citing the nation’s need for a “well regulated militia,” in no way entitles me to machine guns or high capacity magazines. Unlike the founding fathers, we have the Pentagon as a “militia.” Yet, every time there is the slightest commonsense move to stem the rising tide of gun violence the NRA champions of faux liberty start screaming about a hypothetical “slippery slope.” Freedom of religion is fundamental to the U.S., yet the NRA has endorsed Trump, who is essentially seeking to demonize and ban a whole religion. No slippery slope here, that’s a straight jump off of a steep cliff into outright religious persecution.   

Finally, no assault on personal liberty in the U.S. is more sinister than Citizens United, the GOP’s odd notion that corporations are people. The founding fathers made the one person, one vote rule for a simple reason — each person has a conscience; last I checked, corporations did not. That’s why corporations are not people.   

Everywhere, the same dynamic is repeated relentlessly — loud ranting about faux liberties disguise ruthless attacks on real ones.   

Last week, Donald Trump said that Americans accused of certain crimes should be sent to Guantanamo and tried in military courts. I hope people will carefully examine the fake version of liberty that the right wing has set loose in this land, and then defend their real liberties with their votes.   

Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport

Newport News Times, Friday, August 19, Page A8

“Why Women Must Still Fight For Voting Rights”

Statement by NOW President Terry O’Neill

06.23.2016

The struggle to secure voting rights and the struggle to secure the rights of women have been intertwined in U.S. history since the historic meeting at Seneca Falls in 1848 endorsed the demand for women to have the right to vote.Today, nearly a century after women won the constitutional right to vote, and a half-century after African American women and men won access to the ballot box through the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we are facing a new onslaught of state voter suppression measures.

Aimed primarily at communities of color, immigrants, and younger voters, these laws are the shameful progeny of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.

The fact is, voter suppression laws disproportionately impact women. That’s why the National Organization for Women (NOW) is proud to be a member of the Voting Rights Alliance to undo the damage done by Shelby, end voter suppression laws, and pressure Congress to protect and restore the right to vote for every citizen.

NOW activists are joining members and supporters of the new Congressional Voting Rights Caucus on Capitol Hill today to protest the Shelby decision and demand immediate action by Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Restrictions on early voting disproportionately block women from exercising their right to vote. Women are over-represented in the ranks of low-wage work, and many can’t take time off to go vote on Tuesday. They need flexible voting hours via early voting.

What’s more, voter ID laws have a disproportionately negative effect on women. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, one third of all women have citizenship documents that do not identically match their current names, primarily because of name changes at marriage.

Beyond discrimination at the voting booth, when women are blocked from voting, anti-woman legislators get elected, and then they enact laws that harm women — like the tsunami of anti-reproductive rights laws passed by states in the past three years — or block beneficial policies like paid leave, equal pay, or an increase in the minimum wage.

NOW is proud that for the first time in our history, a woman will be nominated to run for President on a major party ticket. That’s a tremendous step forward. But undermining voting rights for our sisters and brothers of color will set back our democracy for generations to come. Shelby must not be allowed to stand. It is time to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act without further delay.

Contact

Tamara Stein , planner@now.org , 951-547-1241

http://now.org/media-center/press-release/why-women-must-still-fight-for-voting-rights/

Screening Suffragette: Differences in Media Coverage of the British and American Suffrage Movements

By: Elisabeth MacNamara

Suffragette

Members of the League of Women Voters of Georgia were among those who got a sneak peek of the new movie Suffragette, which details the fight for the right to vote for women in Britain, late last week. I attended a similar event many years ago whenIron Jawed Angels was being launched by HBO in a gala affair at the Carter Presidential Library. While last night’s showing was much more subdued, it was also much more intimate. Surrounded by League friends in a theater that features reclining seats, it felt just like home.

Suffragette focuses on the British suffrage movement in general and on the plight of a group of working class women in particular. The result is a poignant portrayal not just of the political frustration experienced by British women seeking the vote, but also of the social and legal conditions that led them to abandon peaceful means and become, in the words of their leader Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep), law breakers in order to become law makers. The central character, Maud Watts played by Carey Mulligan, is almost an accidental tourist on the suffragette scene. Married with a young son, Maud works, as she has all her life, in a laundry. She befriends a co-worker who involves her in the movement and as Maud becomes more radicalized, she also discovers how little control she has over the things that matter to her in life.

American Women by 1912, the year in which Suffragette is set, had achieved some measure of equality under the law. Where once a married woman’s legal identity completely merged with her husband’s, by 1912 women had begun to gain some control over their property and their children. The same was not true in Britain. In one scene, the movie depicts a wealthy suffragette pleading with her husband to post bail not just for her, but for the other less fortunate women arrested with her. Despite pointing out that his money had originally come from her, when he refuses she is helpless to do anything about it. When Maud is arrested for a second time, the police don’t bother to jail her or her companions. “Take them home,” says the chief investigator, “Let their husbands deal with them.” And the husbands did. Some were beaten, some were cast out, some lost contact with their children.

The women depicted in this movie were the ones who, as Maud states at one point, never imagined that women could get the vote but who dared to imagine it when they dared to dream that through the vote they could change their lives and the lives of their daughters.

In importing radical tactics to the American suffrage movement, Alice Paul, the protagonist of Iron Jawed Angels, attracted great attention to the cause, but she also demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between American and British democracy. In the British parliamentary system, opposing the party in power can bring a government down and force a change in the law. The same tactic when used in 1916 in the United States, resulted in Alice Paul’s party opposing Democrats who supported suffrage, including Woodrow Wilson. Many of the suffragists who later founded the League of Women Voters commented bitterly about the damage this did to the overall cause. Similarly, while the 1913 suffrage parade and the Silent Sentinels raised visibility for the movement, the complete freedom of the press in the United States guaranteed that even the more peaceful and process-driven tactics of the mainstream movement got attention in the press.Carrie Chapman Catt depended on the fact that every town in America had a newspaper to spread the word about women’s rights. When the crucial moment came in 1916 that an all-out push for the Federal Amendment seemed possible, she went to great lengths to keep her “Winning Plan” secret so that opposition forces could not organize to stop her.

The same was not true in Britain. One striking aspect of Suffragette is the women’s lack of access to the media. The British government was able to muzzle the press and keep news of the peaceful protests and even arrests and force feedings out of the public eye. The movie suggests that the radical turn that Pankhurst called for resulted from the frustration the suffragettes experienced in getting public attention for their cause. Throwing rocks through store windows and planting bombs raised the stakes for the British government and made it far more difficult to keep the news barons in check. How the suffragettes finally broke out of this impasse forms the dramatic climax of this wonderful movie.

So little is taught about the fight to get the vote for women whether here in the United States or around the world. Movies like Suffragette connect voting rights to the plight of those who cannot vote. In a time of great cynicism about politics and apathy among voters, the movie serves as a good reminder to look back and remember what life was like for those once excluded from the political process.

http://lwv.org/blog/screening-suffragette-differences-media-coverage-british-and-american-suffrage-movements

In celebration of Women’s Equality Day

VIEWPOINT
BY NEL WARD
Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, commemorates women’s right to vote throughout the United States, and women in Oregon have even more to celebrate on this year’s 95th anniversary. Unlike other states that block voting, especially for women, our state’s new “motor voter” registers all people who get driver’s licenses and allows them to choose a political party or opt out if they don’t want to be registered.    
Lawmakers in many other states have passed new laws or strengthened old ones to restrict voting — especially female, low-income, and racial/ethnic minority voters. State legislators mandated photo IDs, reduced the number of voting days, limited voter registration and closed voting on weekends. Only Oregon expanded voting to all citizens through a combination of the “motor-voter” voter registration bill and Oregon’s vote-by-mail law, shared only by Washington and Colorado.    
Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which allowed greater discrimination through state restrictive voting laws that had begun to balloon in 2010. Lawmakers assumed that non-voting citizens are Democrat and progressive and knew their e• et: one state legislative leader bragged that a voter ID law would deliver his state for Mitt Romney in 2012. During the current year, at least 113 bills to restrict voting were introduced or carried over in 33 states. Of the 36 states passing laws requiring identification at the polls, 32 states still have these laws in e• ect, and North Carolina’s law is scheduled to go into e• ect in 2015. Almost two-thirds of the states have laws to prevent citizens from voting.
A federal circuit court has stated that 600,000 people in Texas couldn’t vote because of the stringent voter ID law. A large percentage of disenfranchised voters is female because the law required current identifi cation to have the exact same name on birth certifi cates. Women who changed their names when they were married did not meet this standard. About 90 percent of women change their names when they marry. Fixing the problem cost up to $42 and required up to 250 miles of travel. Poor women had to decide whether to get a voter ID or feed their children. Texas is also illegally refusing birth certificates to infants born in the United States of immigrant women, causing serious problems when these infants reach voting age.
A frequent argument is that voter IDs stop voter fraud. Yet a 2012 report shows that this fraud occurs in 0.000002 percent of votes cast. Far more fraud comes from voting o• cials and computers, unrelated to new laws.
On Women’s Equality Day, Oregonians should take pride in its groundbreaking law that promotes voting instead of restricting this constitutional right. After the Oregon law passed, 17 other states introduced similar bills to simplify voter registration. The New Jersey Legislature also passed automatic voter registration with other reforms such as online registration and early voting, but Gov. Chris Christie said he may veto the bill.
Within the last century, women have gained far more rights than voting — opening a bank account, borrowing money, having credit cards in their own names, divorcing, expanding career opportunities for both married and single women, buying contraceptives, joining the military, participating on juries, being leaders in some religions, etc. Not until a Supreme Court ruling in 1971, however, did women have equal rights with men in owning property and obtaining employment. That same year, Congress proclaimed Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day because, as the resolution stated, “the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States.”
Women have still not achieved equality to men in areas such as jobs, pay, the workplace, sports, technology, job promotion, costs of items and services and protection from violence. Toward that end, the Central Oregon Coast chapter of the National Organization for Women honors the people of the past who have fought for women’s rights and continues to lobby for complete gender equality.
Nel Ward is a member of the Central Oregon Coast chapter of the National Organization for Women. She lives in Newport.
Newport News Times, Friday, August 21, 2015

What Black Women in West Philadelphia Had to Say About Women’s Equality Day

by Jasmine Burnett, National Black Network for Reproductive Justice

August 27, 2014 – 11:30 am

Rarely, if ever, are Black women interviewed in the neighborhoods where they live and asked about a policy’s impact on their lives. As such, I felt it was high time for me to ask Black women in my community about their lived experiences with, and connection to, the laws that secured their right to vote. (Black women via Shutterstock)

Rarely, if ever, are Black women interviewed in the neighborhoods where they live and asked about a policy’s impact on their lives. As such, I felt it was high time for me to ask Black women in my community about their lived experiences with, and connection to, the laws that secured their right to vote. (Black women via Shutterstock)

Rarely, if ever, are Black women interviewed in the neighborhoods where they live and asked about a policy’s impact on their lives. As such,on the days leading up to Women’s Equality Day, which is held each year on August 26, I felt it was high time for me to begin asking Black women in my community about their lived experiences with, and connection to, the laws that secured their right to vote.

When I think about Women’s Equality Day, I reflect on the power and significance of Black women exercising their right to vote. And I am reminded of the ways in which the fight for women’s equality was a “crooked room” for Black suffragettes. As they stood on the front lines of organizing for women’s voting rights, they were also fighting to end the lynching of Black men and women across the South. Today, Black feminist activists continue this intersectional work, of having to protect our bodies, lives, and families by voting against legislation that aims to take away our human rights at the same time that we’re fighting to end sexist and gender-motivated violence as well as racist, state-sanctioned violence in our communities.

Most people, including women, don’t know or care much about Women’s Equality Day, except those of us who live and breathe women’s rights work. The cause of this can be largely attributed to sexism, plain and simple. For Women’s Equality Day, there isn’t the same level of attention paid to it that is given to federally recognized holidays, and we don’t get a day off work to reflect on its significance in American history, or our position in society as women voters.

So, I took to the streets of my neighborhood in West Philadelphia, interviewing two friends and eight other Black women. In this area, 75 percent of the residents are African American. It comes as little surprise that politicians and law enforcement have a challenging history with the Black community here.

Being new to Philadelphia, and this community, I was relieved to find that the Black women I spoke with understood the complicated history with the Women’s Equality Day and that it took a combination of the 19th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for Black women to have full access to the vote. These facts illustrate the Black feminist adage about how all the women are white, all the Blacks are men, and Black women, indeed, are brave.

I found during my interviews that I was not alone in thinking that voting matters. As Briana, 25, shared, “It matters for me to have a voice, and now that we have it, we should make sure that we use it.”

“It’s important that Black women have the right to vote,” added Audrey, 55. “But, a lot of them don’t take the opportunity to vote. They come up with a lot of excuses like, ‘Why should I do this, it’s not going to matter anyway?’ I always tell people, it does matter.”

Some Black women, as Audrey explains, are traumatized to inaction at the fear of being made visible. “A lot of Black women I talk to between the ages of 19 and 30 don’t vote at all. They come up with excuses of why they shouldn’t. I often talk to young women and tell them every vote counts, and their voice matters.”

But, having the right to vote is one thing, having the opportunity to exercise that right is another matter entirely, as has been made clear with voter identification laws that disproportionately affect women in this country. “We live with this idea of a post-racial, post-sexist society,” said Charmaine, 26. “There’s still a lot of work left that we can do, especially in Pennsylvania, which is trying to change the voter laws. The monster we are up againstchanges every year. We need to re-evaluate and adjust our tactics.”

Currently, there is a coalition of organizational leaders pushing new pro-women legislation. Called the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, the coalition has put forth a series of bills that will provide low-income women, women of color, and women veterans with access to a range of health-care options, economic protections, and safety accommodations at work and in their communities. While this is good news for women’s rights, at this point theleadership of this agenda is not reflective of the demographic population in Philadelphia, of which 44 percent are Black or African American. However, there is a women of color-led reproductive justice organization, based in Pittsburgh, leading in the policy discussions about the agenda.

The diversity of women’s health-care needs is addressed in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is promising because it provides protection for whether a woman’s rights will be respected, and whether or not her health insurance covers the range of her reproductive health needs. Charmaine provided some insight on health-care coverage and women’s reproductive health options when she said, “Even with Obamacare, you barely have [coverage of] birth control, based on who you work for, or an abortion if you can’t afford it because Medicaid doesn’t cover it [in most cases, as part of the Hyde Amendment]. I thought this was something that just happened in Texas, but now that I know that there isn’t [reliable] coverage [of reproductive health care services] in Pennsylvania, this just proves my point. People not only need health care, but they should get to choose what that health care is.”

When asked about the agenda she would set to improve the lives of communities of color in the state, Reagen, 32, responded: “If tomorrow I had the power to set priorities for all women in the state of Pennsylvania, rather than choose just one issue [such as education, health care, and equal pay] to start with, I would highlight the intersections between all of them. As Audre Lorde said, “We don’t live single-issue lives.” I think it’s rare for any one thing to be the deciding thing in a person’s life; it’s usually multiple things at once.”

However, Jillian, 30, believes that equal pay for equal work is an issue to lead this discussion: “First and foremost, equal pay for equal work is the most important to me. It’s almost like, why are we having the discussion about that, because it just seems like it’s common sense?”

The women I spoke with also made some interesting observations about their experiences in the workplace. Charmaine explained: “So, I’m a teacher. And the equal pay piece is the least important issue for me because I feel like our struggle at my job is larger than pay, though it is connected to that. For example, there are only six men that work in our school, and four of them are administrators.”

Glory, 29, added: “Having worked in [the field of] medicine for some time, I have seen that it’s just not equal in the workforce. I see the competition. And especially as a Black woman, I have found out that people who have the same exact experience, or even less experiencewere getting compensated a higher amount just because of who they were.”

On parenting and workplace discrimination, Samantha Jo, 32, had this to say: “One of my personal struggles right now is: Would I be supported being a trans woman of color while parenting? What would time off look like? What would bonding look like in order for me to stay home with my baby? These are concerns that are really present and of interest to me.”

It’s unrealistic to think that Black women could celebrate a day like Women’s Equality Day blindly and not reflect on the opportunities to build equality that meets all women where they are. Reagen, for example, provided some insight on how Black and undocumented womencan connect through their shared experiences: “As much as I think the police won’t show up when I need them, I still can call them without fear of being deported. As a Black woman, I think there’s an opportunity for a stronger movement and a stronger ask with brown women who are unafraid and probably need some of that support. I might be in a small minority here, but I actually don’t think it dilutes anyone’s agenda. In fact, it actually strengthens both undocumented immigrant women and Black women’s agendas if we were to come together.”

Jillian added that Women’s Equality Day “is an important dayfor people to take the time to reflect that women are a commodity in the workforce right now—especially given the fact that you have a lot of Black women who are the sole providers for their families—it’s very important that we give light to that fact.”

“The majority of Black women are holding it down and holding their families down, not just with income but also working in what are considered male-dominated fields because of the limited options for work in our communities.” She went on to explain, “We are taking the initiative to have our voices heard, and taking steps to better ourselves.”

The experience of being a Black woman and having the right and opportunity to vote is indeed something to celebrate. However, I think we can all agree with Samantha Jo when she said, “Women’s Equality is a celebration of liberation, but it can be bittersweet sometimes.”

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

Follow Jasmine Burnett on Twitter: @Blkfeminst

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/08/27/black-women-west-philadelphia-say-womens-equality-day/

 

 

Equality: Celebrate It, Promote It, Use It or Lose It!

ELLEANOR CHIN

chin 

This past Tuesday, August 26 was Women’s Equality Day. Congress (and more particularly, Bella Abzug) enacted Equality Day in 1971 to commemorate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The 19th Amendment passed in 1920. Oregonian women had already obtained the right to vote in 1912 (still 136 years after the Declaration of Independence). Now, 43 years after the first Equality Day, Oregonians have the opportunity to pass Ballot Measure 89 at the coming November election. Measure 89, the Equal Rights Amendment, will amend the Oregon Constitution to provide that the State and its political subdivisions “shall not deny or abridge equality of rights on account of sex.” Celebrate equality by registering to vote, encouraging others to register and exercising your vote in support of equality. It is the least we can do for our ancestors and our descendants. There is no shortage of new fights, so we should get the older inventory of justice issues off our plates!

People have been fighting and dying in this country for a long time for the right to vote, even while generations of women and people of color had no such right, or the exercise of the right was so severely burdened as to be meaningless. Yet as a nation we have a humiliating rate of voter turnoutand a recent Princeton study asserts that the United States is functionally no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. The power of voting may be eroding in this country, but we cannot fight that trend by voting less, only by voting more.

Whenever I think about women’s right to vote, I think of my grandmother. She was born in rural Virginia in 1914 and died there in 1992. Had she been born in Oregon, she would have been born with the fundamental right of a citizen to vote for her representatives. Where she was born, she was functionally not a citizen at her birth. She had the right by the time she was old enough to vote and exercised it throughout her life. It took 144 years from the Declaration of Independence for half the population to be included in the democracy. Today, there are certainly living Oregonian women who are older than their right to vote in national elections (94 years) and probably a few who are older than their right to vote even in Oregon (102 years). When my grandmother died, she did not have the inherent right to be free of discrimination because of her sex and today, women of the United States do not.

Equality Day, enacted during the push to enact a National ERA, is almost exactly the same age as I am, within a matter of days. The original campaign to enact a Federal ERA, began in 1923, in the wake of the passing of the 19th Amendment but nearly 50 years passed before the ERA passed the Senate and the House in 1972. An insufficient number of states have ratified it for it to be enacted. (Oregon ratified it in 1973). Therefore, while I was born with the right to vote, I was not born with the right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of my sex, nor is anyone else, of any gender. Moreover the fight has been going on all my life. Even the constitutional right to be protected from discrimination isn’t always enough.

In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, activists began promoting voter registration in that community. Michael Brown, as a black man, was barely old enough to vote, but he had that right and he was constitutionally protected from discrimination as a black man. But he lived in a majority black community, governed by a majority white local government, in which voter turnout was 12%, leading to comments that a 12% voter turnout is “an insult to your children”.

I’ve actually met people who say with pride, “I don’t vote. Those parties are all the same and it doesn’t make a difference”. That is an insult to our collective children. It’s also an insult to our troops, our veterans, and every civil rights advocate and suffragette who marched, was beaten, hosed down, attacked by dogs, jailed or died for the right to vote. And it does have consequences.

Every Supreme Court decision in the last nine years has been decided by a court that included two judges appointed by George W. Bush. (e.g., Citizens United, which allowed for unlimited corporate money in elections, Hobby Lobby, which allowed employers’ alleged religious convictions to define the scope of women’s healthcare). The voter turnout in the 2000 election was 55% and in Florida in particular it was 57%. Without even getting into the effect of Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s effect on the Bush v. Gore decision, voting matters. It has immediate effects, it has ripple effects. But it is not the only bottom line. Inequality is more complicated than that, which is why the Voting Rights Act was still necessary after the 14th and the 15th Amendment, and why the 14th Amendment contains an Equal Protection Clause.

So let’s hear it for cause and effect! Vote for candidates who support equality. Vote for Measure 89. Vote as though your life depended on it. Because it does.