Time is almost up. Tuesday marks the final day to register to vote in 12 states: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It’s hard to think of any election in modern history where it’s been this critical that women make their voices heard. Everything is on the table this time, from reproductive health care to the culture our daughters will face.
Because the clock is ticking, you should go to www.iwillvote.com immediately and register, or use the box at the bottom of this article. But just in case you need extra incentive, I'll look at all 12 states and give you a rundown on exactly what you'll be able to vote on in each.
Indiana: Governor Mike Pence is one of the most polarizing figures in the country, and is the presidential running mate for Donald Trump. In one of the most bizarre and cruel efforts to close access to reproductive health care, Pence signed a bill which would require funerals for fetuses. Incredibly, this bill also included fetuses that had miscarried. Although the bill has been struck down, similar efforts remain on the table in Louisiana. According to the March of Dimes, as many as half of all pregnancies result in miscarriage.
Pennsylvania: This year, the Women’s Law Project will send a bill to the Pennsylvania legislature which will help ensure equal pay for women. It would prohibit employers for firing you or retaliating if you share wage information to ensure you are paid as much as a man. As these laws stand, its difficult for women to find out if they’re being compensated fairly.
Texas: The state is one of the worst in the country for reproductive heath care. Texas is among the flood of states that have attempted to circumvent Roe v. Wade by requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — a move that’s closed most of the clinics in the state. Although the Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional in June, more efforts to limit women’s health care are sure to follow.
South Carolina: The state's Senate only has one woman out of 46 members. Recently, Senator Tom Corbin made a remark that women are a “lesser cut of meat” — a comment that drew immense controversy. Senator Katrina Shealy, the lone woman serving, noted that the comment underscored how hard it was to be a woman in political office. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, almost one in five women in the state live in poverty, a figure much higher than the national average.
Ohio: The legislature in Ohio is considering laws that would punish transgender individuals for using a bathroom that is congruent with their gender identity — a policy which particularly marginalizes transgender women. Representative John Becker is considering sponsoring legislation that would force transgender individuals to use the bathroom on their original birth certificate, regardless of any legal transitioning. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender people are almost twice as likely to experience sexual assault as their cisgender counterparts.
Tennessee: More people are shot to death in Tennessee than are killed in automobile accidents. Despite this, the Tennessee legislature has considered laws in 2016 that would expand access to guns — including laws that would allow people to carry guns in public parks, trucks, and schools. For women, the combination of guns in a home and domestic violence are a particularly lethal combination. In a study of 25 high-income countries, women in the U.S. comprised just 32 percent of the total female population, yet suffered 84 percent of all female firearm homicides.
New Mexico: Women in New Mexico are the most likely in the United States to be living in poverty, according to academic researchers Lisa Cacari Stone and Vicky Howell. These low wages disproportionately impact women of color, with Hispanic women earning a median salary of just over $22,000 a year. This has disastrous consequences for the women in the state. According to the study, increased political participation by women is correlated with better health policies.
Arkansas: This rural state ranks 48 out of 50 for the number of women with access to contraception. Additionally, the state suffers a shortage of health care facilities and providers, according to the Arkansas Women’s Institute. This leads to Arkansas women suffering a disproportionately high number of cases of diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer, and mental health issues. Libertarian Frank Gilbert is running for the Senate in Arkansas, and plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected, leaving 300,000 Arkansans without health insurance.
Georgia: The state is making a major investment in preparing girls for jobs in so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). According to the Obama administration, a $140 million grant will give Georgia women access to technical training and advance degrees. School reform is a hot-button issue in Georgia, and in 2015, the legislature punted on making changes until this year’s general assembly session.
Louisiana: The state has the largest pay gap in the United States, with women earning just 66 cents on the dollar compared to men. Additionally, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has prevented new Planned Parenthood clinics from opening, despite a serious health crisis in the state. In 2015, $4 million were allocated to a Planned Parenthood center, but it remains an empty lot. Louisiana has the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.
Michigan: Serious questions remain about the Michigan government after toxic levels of lead were found in the water supply of Flint, Michigan. In an effort to cut costs, officials switched the area's water source to a system with contaminated pipes, which caused lead to enter the water supply. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children were exposed to contaminated drinking water, causing skin lesions, autoimmune disorders, and even brain damage. Even a year later, some families still bathe, wash their clothes, and drink using bottled water. Governor Rick Snyder is named in a federal lawsuit, along with 13 other city and state officials, claiming their actions were “reckless and outrageous.”
Kentucky: In an effort to combat gun deaths in the state, the Kentucky legislature is considering laws which would improve gun safety by mandating gun lock use. This law will make it a crime to store a gun in a way that it can be accessed by a minor, and features enhanced punishments if that gun is used to kill or injure someone. The bill is currently scheduled for the 2017 session, and with the makeup of the general assembly deeply divided. This election will heavily influence the bill’s outcome.
As you can see, the stakes are incredibly high this time — not just for national politics, but also for local elections. No matter who wins the presidency, the outcome of the Senate and House races will greatly shape the effectiveness of our next president. But sure to make your voice heard and register to vote today at www.iwillvote.com.