This Sunday marks Women’s Equality Day, commemorating Aug. 26, 1920, when the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed, recognizing women’s right to vote. Almost a century later, our voting rights are under attack across this nation. Since 2011, 41 states have introduced at least 180 voter restriction bills, including 34 with voter photo identification provisions. These restrictions disproportionately impact young people, the elderly, low-income individuals and especially people of color — and within each of these communities, women are most harshly affected.
Many women change their surname when they marry, and updating the necessary documents often isn’t quick or easy. According to a survey conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, of all voting-age women with ready access to their U.S. birth certificates, just 48 percent have a birth certificate with their current legal name. And 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name. This means that as many as 32 million voting-age women may have no document available that confirms both their citizenship and their current name. Does that mean they shouldn’t be able to exercise their hard-won right to vote?
In a nation that prides itself on holding free and fair elections, it is disturbing that this new fight for voter rights even exists.
With the ongoing attacks on women’s economic security and reproductive rights, it is critical that women vote in November. NOW’s hundreds of chapters and state organizations will be working around the clock to get the word out to women about what is at stake for all of us in the 2012 elections, including the changes in voting and election laws. As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, we must send the message to legislators that our vote is our voice, and we will not be silenced.