Women have the power to create a more perfect democracy, one vote at a time. If there are no barriers for them to participate fully, that is.
One hundred years after the 19th Amendment was codified in the U.S. Constitution, women have made tremendous strides. Yet, true equality for all women at the ballot box remains elusive. For far too many women—and other eligible voters who remain disenfranchised from voting—old discriminatory practices like cuts to early voting, closings of polling locations, and strict voter ID laws, combined with new suppression tactics that have emerged during a global pandemic, have reminded us of the frailty of our democracy if we don’t defend it vigorously.
As we mark another Women’s Equality Day, we are reminded of the critical importance every vote will play in deciding the future of our nation as well as securing real, lasting equality for women in the United States. We must remember that even when values and policies become law in America, there are those who will do anything they can to prevent some from exercising those rights. Black and other women of color who were excluded in 1920 from the vote they so fiercely fought for alongside their white counterparts attest to this truth.
Many believe the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended disenfranchisement in our country. It did not. That legislation simply made it harder for bad actors to disenfranchise voters, until 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court case of Shelby v. Holder removed key voter protections.
That is why the fight continues today. Our democracy depends on each of us standing up to and calling out voter suppression, not just to support women’s rights but to protect the rights of all U.S. voters.
We must fight to increase voters’ access to the polls, including expanding early voting and absentee voting—especially as the pandemic continues—and make automatic and online voter registration more accessible and available.
We must fight against partisan and racial gerrymandering and congressional redistricting that strips rights away from voters.
We must ensure that women have the information they need to participate in elections that determine our future. We must fight to make sure all eligible voters—especially first-time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, communities of color, and low-income citizens—can register and vote—easily.
Women’s Equality Day is a time to honor and acknowledge all of the women who came before us, and to use the lessons of their fights to shape a fairer, more just future.
History is watching. We are the authors of our story and only we can decide what our legacy and impact will be. We must choose our story wisely. We must fight for a future for women that is inclusive and equitable instead of a reflection of an obsolete, inequitable past.
If you want to mark Women’s Equality Day, commit to this fight.
Register to vote—today. Register your family and friends to vote. Create a voting plan to overcome potential pandemic obstacles. Research candidates and know the issues. Vote in every single election—large and small. Contact your elected officials about supporting the Voting Rights Advancement Act so that we can expand voting access.