Whose Vote Matters Most In 2016? Why, The Women's

by Lulu Chang

If there's one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it's that women will elect the next American president. And with midterm elections looming ever nearer, Congress is becoming acutely aware of how pivotal the women's vote will be — both in November and two years down the road — and the strategizing has begun in earnest. Democrats, who have historically won a larger percentage of female support than their Republican counterparts, are employing a particularly interesting tactic — winning the election by losing in the Senate.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats pushed a bill forward that would undo the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, handed down last month. The June 30 ruling was hugely unpopular amongst women, with many incensed by the idea that employers could control reproductive rights.

The decision was also unpopular in the White House. As soon after the news broke, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, "Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women employed by these companies." This statement reaffirmed the administration's stance on women's health issues, but more importantly, carried with it a not-so-subtle subtext, reading: Ladies, the Democrats are on your side.

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Republicans, on the other hand, have had few opportunities to express their support of women, and continued to stand against reproductive rights when they failed to produce the numbers needed for a procedural vote that would have brought the appropriately titled "Not My Boss's Business Act" to the floor. The bill was intended to stop companies from invoking a religious-freedom argument that would allow them to opt out of covering all forms of contraception for their employees, effectively reversing the Hobby Lobby decision.

The message beyond the vote

But the bill never really stood a chance. Though the Democrats have a majority in Senate, holding 51 seats with two additional independents who tend to vote left, 60 votes were needed on Wednesday in order to bring the bill forward. It was narrowly defeated with a vote of 56 - 43, but even with the loss, the Democrats may have succeeding in advancing a dangerous message — Republicans don't care about women.

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In her remarks prior to the vote, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the bill's sponsor, posed a simple question to Senate.

Now is the time for our colleagues to answer a few basic questions: Who should be in charge of a woman’s health care decisions? Should it be her and partner and her faith, or should it be her boss? To me and the vast majority of people across the country that answer is obvious.

This statement paints Republicans who voted against the bill as politicians more concerned with the religious rights of corporations than with the personal freedoms of individual women. And given the largely female public outcry over the Hobby Lobby decision and the issue of contraception, this may be particularly damning for the GOP. But why are the parties so concerned with women this election?

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Women vote more than men

Much of it has to do with the large proportion of female voters who come out to vote on election day. Women not only make up a larger chunk of the American population, but also comprise the majority of voters. In fact, more women than men have voted in the last 13 presidential elections, dating all the way back to 1964.

Women tend to be democrats

And unfortunately for Republicans, women tend to go blue. In the last six consecutive presidential elections, the majority of women have voted for the Democratic candidate. In 2009, Gallup released a fascinating study that suggested that women were more likely than men to be Democrats regardless of age.

This "regardless of age" addendum is particularly important because there tends to be a generational skew in party affiliation, with younger people tending to be more liberal, and older Americans leaning more towards the right. But according to the Gallup poll of 150,000 people, women of all ages, ethnicities, and marital statuses were more often Democrats than not.

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In 2012, women quite literally cost Mitt Romeny the election. 55 percent of the voting female populace sided with Barack Obama, while only 44 percent backed Romney. This actually was a smaller margin than in 2008, when Obama beat McCain 56 percent to 43 percent in terms of women voters. And in terms of unmarried women, the results were staggering: in 2008, 70 percent of that demographic voted for Obama, and only 29 percent voted for McCain.

Most women use contraception

But married or not married, 99 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used some form of contraception, with the pill remaining the most prevalent form of contraception. As such, it comes as no wonder that the topic has become a political hotspot, with the Democrats holding a significant advantage.

These midterm elections have focused heavily on the female vote, with millions upon millions of dollars being poured into outreach and ads targeting women, from both sides of the aisle. And with this much power, ladies, comes one hell of a responsibility to elect the candidate in 2016 who will not only do right by women, but by the rest of the United States as well.