This article was originally published in The State Journal-Register.
There's a sense of urgency about voting in elections this year among a group of women in Springfield.
With a variety of movements focused on women's rights across the country, local women empowerment organizations are partnering to mobilize people to the polls.
Keri Tate of Springfield, president of the Springfield-area chapter of the League of Women Voters and co-founder of the Resistor Sisterhood, said more women are coming together about voting and are focused on more issues than reproductive rights.
“Women care about gun violence in communities and they’re watching their children and relatives die in gun violence which is up everywhere right now and it's frightening. We see all kinds of decisions being made economically that impact our marginalized communities and are concerned so we want to make sure women are out there expressing themselves through voting, however, it is they choose to vote. We’re not telling them who to vote for, we're just telling them to get out there and participate in the system so their voices can be heard," she said.
According to U.S. Census data, about 64% of Illinois voters in the November 2020 election were women.
“Polls have shown that voters in this country believe in simple things like every purchase of a gun should have a background check but we know that’s not happening. We see children being killed in schools and we find out that oftentimes things have fallen through the cracks so there's this belief that we all think in a certain way but we don’t see that being enacted through the people representing us in government. So when you do vote and things don’t change it's hard for people to understand why voting is important.”
A leaked draft of a majority opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would strike down Roe v. Wade published in May by Politico has played a role in the lack of trust in the high court among some voters. Tate said though Illinois seems to be fairly safe at the time from abortion restrictions from the high court there are still concerns.
In 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the Illinois Reproductive Health Act. It protects access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion.
Pritzker and state leaders condemned the leaked Supreme Court draft during a May press conference. In a statement, he said no matter the ruling, "abortion will always be safe and legal here in Illinois."
Jeanette Goza, president of the Springfield-Decatur chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., said participating in elections on all levels can make a difference.
“A lot more women are seeking office at the national, state and local level so we have to support those people because they are potentially people who think more like us," Goza said. "We as women run families so we want to make sure education, child care, and all those things we need are successful.
Tate said research plays a major role in how to decide on a candidate. She said part of the decision comes down to a person's voting type.
"Lots of Americans are single-issue voters which means if there’s one issue, in particular, that means more to you than everything else, then obviously it's easier to check out the candidate's position on that issue. But if you’re someone like me who wants to vote for a candidate in totality I want to take a look at all the positions on issues and make the most informed choice I can, which is not always easy and does require extra research."
A project developed by the League of Women Voters titled "411" is available for those who need help with research on candidates. Tate said it gives unbiased and nonpartisan information on candidates and can be accessed online at www.lwv.org/elections/vote411
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