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Empowering Women at the Ballot Box: Breaking down Barriers with Help From VoteRiders

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In honor of Women’s History Month, VoteRiders’ Digital Communications Coordinator Erin Carden spoke with Jessica Jones Caparell, director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters, about the tremendous power women continue to bring to the ballot box and the steps the League is taking in partnership with VoteRiders to make sure their voices are heard this election season and beyond.


Tell me about yourself and your role at the League of Women Voters.

My name is Jessica Jones Caparell, and I've been at the League of Women Voters for 12 years. I currently serve as our director of Government Affairs, where I oversee our advocacy work at the federal level and lobby Congress and the administration to move our priorities forward. My team and I also support the advocacy work of our state and local League affiliates across the country by building strategies, providing policy analysis, and guiding them on how to use League policy positions. 

What is the League of Women Voters’ mission, and what are some of your key initiatives for 2024? 

Our mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. We fight to move and implement reforms that will expand access to both voter registration and the voting booth at all levels of government. The League registers anyone who is eligible and wants the opportunity to vote. We do voter registration in all 50 states, plus DC, and over 750 communities across the country. We’re also moving forward in this big election year by working to register and educate voters by providing the information they need as they head to the polls. 

Our award-winning website, VOTE411.org is a one-stop shop for all voter needs — whether that’s to find out what's on their ballot and where the candidates stand, or to check what to take with them to vote, or to figure out if they can vote early or absentee vote. All information on VOTE411 is available in English and Spanish.

Three women, center woman is holding a VOTE411 sign

How is the League of Women Voters celebrating Women’s History Month this year? 

We are one — if not the only — active organization born out of the women's suffrage movement 104 years ago, after the passage of the 19th Amendment. We elevate women's voices throughout the year. During Women's History Month, we give special attention to uplifting the stories of the women who came before us as well as modern-day women who continue to fight for equality and the right to vote. We’re also continuing our advocacy for the Equal Rights Amendment, which would update the US Constitution to protect equal rights under the law regardless of sex.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, women registered to vote at record-high rates. What are some of the major motivations driving women to the polls this year? 

Women are going to show up to vote in November. In the last several election cycles, we’ve seen women continue to show up to make sure their voices are heard. I think there are several issues driving women to the polls. There’s a large conversation around reproductive rights and the choices that we’re able to make about our bodies — I think that’s a motivating factor for many women and those who can become pregnant. I think we've also seen some polls showing how deeply people care about our democracy. And not just in terms of voting rights and money in politics — those are sometimes intangible policy issues — but people care about making sure our democracy is strong and that we're able to continue the tradition of democracy in this country. We’ve seen this through support for various pieces of legislation — such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would tackle voter discrimination by restoring fundamental components of the Voting Rights Act — and other bills in Congress as well as across the country in state legislatures.

What kinds of restrictions are blocking women from voting in 2024?

The restrictions blocking women from going out to vote are similar to some of the restrictions we see impacting other voters who have been historically marginalized, like LGBTQIA+ people or communities of color — such as strict voter ID laws, changing the times and locations where people can vote, or rolling back early voting. These are restrictions that affect everyone's right to participate — that's one of the reasons why League affiliates work so hard to ensure that people have the information they need to take with them when they go to vote.

Voter ID laws pose a unique challenge to people who change their name because many states require that the name on their ID matches the name on their voter registration. How is the League of Women Voters addressing this issue? 

We know that 70% of women change their name when they get married — I changed my name when I got married. I had to go through the process of updating my name on my Social Security card, my driver's license, and my voter registration card. There are financial barriers to doing all of that, and not everyone can take time off from work to get that done at the DMV or the Social Security Office, which is usually only open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. So that ends up disenfranchising a lot of people. Of course, it also happens on the flip side. If you get divorced or remarried, it can also cost a lot of time and money. Trans women face unique challenges as well

Women holding "Women Power the Vote" signs

We know that when women vote, we bring our whole household out to vote, so the League wants to make sure we're working with organizations like VoteRiders to break down those barriers and ensure that women have everything they need at the polls — whether that’s a voter ID card, the tools to make sure their name is updated, or the correct underlying documentation. 

How are the League of Women Voters and VoteRiders working together to make voting more accessible for women and all citizens across the nation? 

We’re working with VoteRiders to break down the barriers people face when they try to vote. The League has collaborated in-state with VoteRiders for years, and we also connect users to VoteRiders’ resources on VOTE411.org. If League affiliates are working directly with VoteRiders in-state, we direct people to your Helpline and free resources so folks can find out what ID they need and work with VoteRiders team members to get that documentation. VoteRiders has also done trainings for League affiliates on voter ID requirements in different states and has provided us with state-specific Voter ID Information Cards

 

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