Women of PA, Get Informed and Vote on Nov. 4th!

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy Pennsylvania women have the power to change the future of their state, and their own lives, by voting in next month’s election. The question is, do they understand the high stakes that make their participation vital? In the midst of political campaigns, with the inevitable preposterous claims and accusations flying around, it is easy to dismiss politics as a game, or to think that one vote won’t make a difference. That’s precisely what the people who hold political power in Pennsylvania hope you will think. The reality is very different.The women of Pennsylvania, more than five million strong, can and should be the decisive force in electing the policymakers who will determine the laws on issues like economic security, reproductive rights, domestic violence, and education. These issues affect women more than they do men. And poll after poll shows that women care more about these issues than men do. The reason our laws have been out of step with what would be best for women is simple: Women have not voted as if their lives depend on it. The women of the commonwealth need to think about these questions while deciding whether voting is worth the effort: Is it time for equal pay to become a reality? Despite all the evidence of a pay gap between men and women, Pennsylvania hasn’t updated equal-pay laws in more than 50 years. Is it time that so-called family-friendly values make their way to the workplace? Our elected officials talk a big game about support for families. Yet in most of Pennsylvania today, pregnant women don’t have the right to get a drink of water or take a bathroom break, and after giving birth, they don’t have the right to pump breast milk at work. Bills introduced to correct these discriminatory practices have languished in committee for months. Is it time to stop discriminating against poor and working women? For four years, the Pennsylvania legislature has passed measure upon measure that disproportionately burdens poor and working women. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of reproductive health. The simple truth is that women cannot control their own lives if they can’t control their own reproductive decisions. You don’t need to take our word for it. Experts repeatedly confirm that Pennsylvania’s record on women is abominable. The Center for American Progress recently gave Pennsylvania a C-minus grade on women’s issues, ranking us 28th among the 50 states in the treatment of women. Things can be different. The Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, led by Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny)...

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Leading Up to the 2012 Election

Personal account of the lead-up to 2012 election.

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Voting Age Millennials Lower Turnout

 Less than half voter aged millennials made it to the polls in 2012.

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Millennials a Diverse Voting Block

Millennials are the largest, most diverse, most progressive, in current history.

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Absentee Voting

Pennsylvania has relatively restrictive voting regulations for casting an absentee ballot. A voter is eligible to cast an absentee ballot if they are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day for one of the following reasons listed here. None of ten reasons that Pennsylvania accepts as valid for requesting an absentee ballot cover men or women who are taking care …

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Time Off for Democracy

There is no specific Pennsylvania law providing employees time off to go to their polling place to vote on Election Day. In 2008, WomenVote PA launched Time-Off for Democracy to encourage all employers to consider adopting policies that would allow flexible work schedules on Election Day. Time-Off at the beginning or end of the day can help employees, especially those with family obligations, to get to the polls and vote.  Because women still shoulder the majority of the responsibility as caregivers, especially of children, many mothers find it difficult to juggle work, family duties, children’s schedules, and sometimes it seems impossible to fit in time to vote on Election Day. It is all too easy to believe that one vote really doesn’t matter — but it does! By adopting such policies, employers are leading by example in showing how important it is to be civically engaged in our communities and to participate in our democracy.  Read the proposed Time-Out for Democracy Policy in full here. Pennsylvania is one of 20 states nationwide currently without any specific law requiring time off to vote. Policies that allow time off for voting are extremely important in Pennsylvania given the current restrictive voting laws and the stringent qualifications for casting an absentee...

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Early Voting & Same Day Registration

Pennsylvania law does not allow same day voting registration or early voting. Residents who wish to cast a ballot must register to vote at least 30 days in advance of Election Day.  Early voting and same day registration give voters more flexibility to vote when it is more convenient for them.  Women who shoulder more of the caregiving responsibilities would benefit greatly from having more flexibility for when they can vote.  Early voting also can reduce long lines on Election Day, making it easier for mothers to bring their children to the polling location with them.  Early voting leads to increased voter participation, especially in otherwise lower turnout elections, where research shows that women are less likely than men to vote. Fact Facts Election Day registration significantly boosts voter turnout.  In 2012, states with Election Day registration had average turnout of 71.3%, 12.5 points higher than the turnout in states without EDR. Sixteen states have implemented or passed legislation to allow for online paperless voter registration. Arizona pioneered online registration in 2002 and today over 70% of the state’s voter registrations are performed online. In addition to making registration easier for voters, online registration allows Arizona to save money by eliminating data entry and has increased the accuracy of its voter rolls. In 2010, the costs associated with a paper registration were 83 cents while online registration was just 3 cents. However, legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would establish and implement procedures for online voter registration and early...

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Recommendations for Reform

There should be no voter ID requirements and the voter ID law signed by Governor Corbett in 2012 should be repealed. On the day of a federal, state, or local election, an employee eligible to vote in that election may take up to two hours off work, without loss of pay, in order to vote. After giving at least seven (7) days notice, and with approval of…

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Voter ID Law

Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law is currently the subject of litigation and when it will be fully in effect is questionable. The Voter ID law requires all voters to present photo ID when voting at the polls, but those photo ID requirements are NOT currently in effect.  All voters will be asked to present photo ID when they appear at the polls to vote, but they will be allowed to cast a regular ballot without a photo ID.  Voters who are voting for the first time in a polling place are still required under existing law to present a form of...

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Make Voting Accessible

There is no specific Pennsylvania law providing employees time off to go to their polling place to vote on Election Day. In the 2012 presidential election, PA ranked 29 out of 50 states for voter turnout, with 59.9% of eligible voters casting ballots; in 2008 PA’s voter turnout rate was higher at 64.9%. During the non-presidential 2010 general election…

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Electronic Voter Registration System

Currently there is legislation pending in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would mandate the implementation of an electronic or online voter registration system. Pending Legislation– April 17, 2013: PA Senate passed SB 37, moving forward on an important update to the state’s voter registration system. This bill requires that an electronic voter registration system be created to enable citizens to register and/or update their voter registration information online. This enhancement increases accessibility and streamlines the current registration process. 17 states across the country already offer online voter registration, a number that is likely to grow, with similar legislation pending in 15 states, including PA. Additional Resources: http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/electronic-or-online-voter-registration.aspx http://www.seventy.org/Files/Pew_Upgrading_Voter_Registration[1].pdf...

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