On Tuesday June 20th, Georgians will vote in one of the most closely watched special elections in history. The choice is not just between two individuals – it is between two fundamentally different policy approaches that will have major impacts on Americans’ lives.
Young people need quality public education. Recent college grads want to land well-paying jobs while not burdened with crushing student debt. Parents need to be able to care for their newborns or sick children without fear of losing wages or their jobs. Jobs with wages that allow individuals to support themselves and family are critical to the state’s and district’s economy. Access to affordable health care is a pressing concern for all.
These are the needs of Georgians, and especially of single women, people of color and Millennials. One would think politicians would be wise to actively address these needs by supporting policies like the Paycheck Fairness Act, or raising the minimum wage, or securing paid sick and family medical leave protections for women who are pregnant and often their family’s primary care giver.
Instead, Republicans in Congress have proposed health care, budget and tax plans that would have devastating impacts on everyone. Their plans would decimate public education and make it harder to pay back staggering student loans. Under the American Health Care Act, millions of Medicaid recipients – the majority of them women – would lose their coverage. The GOP plan would eliminate maternity and newborn care; zero out funding for all of Planned Parenthood services; and end protections for pre-existing conditions, meaning women could face discrimination for “conditions” such as pregnancy and Caesarean sections. The current budget proposal contains cuts to food stamps, job training, and other programs that would have a greater effect on single women who are more likely to receive lower wages or be unemployed, and more likely to live close to the poverty level.
Only one of these paths aligns with the needs of most Americans, and in Georgia’s 6th district, voters have an opportunity to take their state and country in a direction that addresses their real life needs.
Women, and in particular single women, can choose to exert their influence and tip the scales in favor of the policies they need. We’re living in a moment when women are claiming their power: from the Women’s March that activated millions of women around the country, to the intense energy and increasing numbers of women committing to run for office, women are demanding public policies that reflect their lives.
But in 2016, even though single women had the numerical edge in terms of eligible voters, too many weren’t registered and did not vote at the levels of married women. Right now, half of the women in America are either divorced, widowed, separated or never been married and their numbers are growing. Between 2004 and 2016, the percentage of unmarried women in the population grew by two percentage points. One in four is a mother with a child under 18. And single women are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, make minimum wage or less, and have no health insurance, savings or retirement plans.
Right now, close to a third of eligible unmarried women aren’t registered to vote, and more than one in ten of the single women who were registered to vote didn’t go to the polls in 2016. Single women are a potent political force, but only if they translate this potential into action at the ballot box.
These patterns apply to Georgia’s 6th district. In Georgia, over 638,000 unmarried women are not registered to vote. African Americans, Latinos and other minorities have much at stake as well and much potential to change the outcome if they vote in force. While 83 percent of white voters turned out for the November 2016 election, only 71.8 percent of African Americans participated. If Americans want a government that represents their views and speaks to their lives, they cannot sit on the sidelines any longer.
Making a difference means single women, minorities and Millennials have to register, turn out and realize their power to block punitive policies. By voting, they can advocate for laws that lift the lives of all Americans and help our nation deliver on our democratic values of majority rule. On June 20th, they have a chance to send a message in the fight for a better future for all Americans.