The idea first entered my consciousness at the age of five. I overheard my parents having a passionate conversation. I had never seen them so animated. I wanted to feel as they did in that moment. By the time I was a teen I had read much. I knew; I was ready. How long would it be before I too felt the excitement and the energy I witnessed? I wondered.
When the time came, I was anxious, expectant, and so eager. I did not know that I could do it in my own home. I was young and naïve. I walked outside the house into a driving rain. I hitchhiked to meet my destiny. Once I completed the act, I was elated. I could hardly wait for the next time, then the next, and the next. All these years later, I still love doing it.
“You want me to tell you about my first time . . . I like doing it in the morning . . . When was it? What year was it? Well, it’s kind of personal . . . I felt grown up. I wasn’t a kid anymore . . . Once I did it in an old woman’s garage. You have all of that energy flowing inside. You go in. You commit. It is a beautiful thing!”
These women, Felicity Huffman, Marg Helgenberger, Angie Harmon, Rosario Dawson, Tyne Daly, and Daphne Zuniga are speaking of voting, as was I. They are reflecting on their first vote; their virginal experience as an electorate. A recent television advertisement campaign, sponsored by the Women’s Voices, Women Vote, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, District of Columbia, is attempting to appeal to single women voters. Apparently, according to a recent study, there are approximately twenty million of these.
In this election year 2006, single women are considered the group to get. They are the voters that candidates wish to attract. These lovelies are the silent, sweet minority.
In recent years, each election has been marked with a group of swing voters — 1992 was the year of the woman, 1994 — the year of “angry white males,” 1996 — the soccer mom, and 2000 — waitress moms.
According to [Daron Shaw, PhD., an associate professor at the University of Texas,] Shaw, the swing voter becomes more legitimate when you can picture them as a group. The waitress moms, branded as blue-collared women who were typically single mothers, were an easy group for people to visualize — Helen Hunt in “As Good as it Gets,” a movie that came out only a year before the election.
Heading into this election year , a media buzz has surrounded one group in particular — NASCAR dads — a term used by Democratic consultant Celinda Lake in 2002 to describe white, conservative NASCAR fans.
Though the legitimacy of NASCAR dads as a swing vote is debated, in February President Bush, decked out in a racing jacket, flew on Air Force One to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest annual event.
“Our message to them (NASCAR dads) is Democrats are not going to take away your guns, but Republicans are taking away your jobs,” said Lake, the Democratic pollster, who worked as a consultant for the Clinton/Gore campaign.
Some pundits, however, have argued that NASCAR dads as a swing group is nothing more than hype.
Today the group to capture are single women.
I am among them. Yet, I have done it for decades. I am a dedicated voter. Unlike the twenty-two percent of eligible single female citizens that forfeited their right to vote in the 2004 Presidential election year, I cast my ballot. Contrary to the expected 24 percent of single, adult women that are not expected to vote this year, I will again select my representatives.
Single women are now being defined as slackers.
By contrast, [Joe Goode, Executive Director of Women’s Voices, Women Vote] Goode said, “married women comprise 28 percent of the voting population, but their participation was 31 percent in the last presidential.”
Who are these fair ladies? Are you among them? if so, please share your sentiments; what are you thinking, feeling, and why. I want to understand.
Seriously, for me, at the age of five I felt passionate about politics. My natural father was a right-winged, radical Republican. My Mom is a Democratic Socialist. One day the two were engaged in a heated exchange as they discussed the candidates. I witnessed this and thought, “Wow, I can hardly wait to care so much and have the power to bring about change.”
I grew up in a quiet home. This discussion for me was unusual, electrifying, exhilarating, and lively. I listened intently. The dialogue, and the moment, was unforgettable. Since that conversation, which was my introduction to issues, the parties, and political campaigns, my interest has never wavered.
My Mom later divorced my biological father. She married a Liberal Progressive. Political demonstrations became a part of my life early on. I participated in the process long before I could vote. In Wisconsin, at the age of seventeen I was able to cast a ballot in the primary. In the Badger state, if you were going to be eighteen at the time of the general election, you were eligible to vote in the preliminaries.
At the time, I was a college student. I moved after registering. In order to vote, I needed to drive, in my case hitchhike to my former precinct. It was far. The weather was awful. Not only did I drudge out during a thunderstorm, I repeated the process in November in the midst of a blizzard. Nothing deterred me.
Yet, according to experts single women in America have many reasons for not voting. Time and money seem to be major concerns for this population. Somehow, this effects their partaking in the process.
According to Joe Goode, “Fifty percent of these single women live in households that make less than $30,000 a year. They are very economically depressed.”
I relate. I would think that this state of affairs would stimulate a desire to vote, to take action. These women, more than most need a good government to assist them. With representatives such as our current compassionate Commander, they are certain to falter. Statistically speaking, I am in this group. I know how hard life can be when the money in your pocket cannot fill a molehill, let alone a mountain.
Thus, I trust that life for these women must be a challenge, it is for me! I acknowledge that day-to-day doings are made more challenging by a non-responsive administration. I know that; this is my experience!
Many single women “may be struggling just to get ahead. They may be single moms. So their support network just isn’t the same as married women who tend to be upper-income and a little more established in terms of where they live.”
Oh, this is so true. For me, there is one income and it is shaky. My support system is quite limited. My network is likely smaller than those that meander in and out of meaningful exchanges with their spouse and “his” associates.
One reason for this disparity, Goode suggests, is that “single women tend to be more mobile. A third of them move every two years or less. They might not even know where to go to vote. A lot of them are under 30 and a lot of them are over 60.”
Whatever their age, these are women with concerns about affordable health care, the cost of education and pay equity.
So true Mr. Goode. Health care concerns have haunted me as long as I can remember. Though I loathe moving, I seem to be more mobile than my married counterparts. On the topic of pay equity, I can only say, please. If I begin to share stories on this subject, I will go on endlessly. I often wonder do married women and single women receive equal pay. I will leave that research for another time.
Once again, with all that effects single women directly, why do so many of these magnificent beings choose not to vote.
Sara Grove, a professor and Chair of the Elsie Hillman Politics at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, is sympathetic; she understands the large burdens many students shoulder today, single women among these.
Ms. Grove states, “If you are attending college … this is one of the last things you are paying attention to.” The Professor cogitates, ‘many students carry 12 college credits so they can obtain health-care benefits while also working a full-time job. They wind up struggling to stay afloat academically and financially.’
Grove continues, “That is increasingly becoming the dilemma more and more students face.” Yet, I wonder; does this justify not voting, not turning to those that might better the system. I too attended college, often working full-time while carrying a full load. I did struggle and every aspect of my life suffered. Thus, I saw a need for being active. For me, voting was meaningful. It gave me a voice. When I cast my ballot, then and now, I felt and feel empowered. I was making a choice and attempting to improve life in America.
Barbara DiTullio, program manager for Women Vote PA, said Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where women are less likely than men to be registered to vote. One way to draw more women to the polls, she said, is to hold elections on weekends.
“Why does it have to be on a Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. when people are working and children are in school? If we really want to engage people, we have to make it easier for them to vote.”
Wow! Originally, I am from Pennsylvania. However, as you might surmise, as a single woman, I have moved many times in my life. I no longer reside in what once was my home state.
Nevertheless, the scheduled Tuesday vote is to me almost a non-issue. Years ago I learned of the power of an absentee vote. I was working as the Democratic Party Representative on election eve. Members of the Grand Jury and people from each political party were at the Registrars to monitor the vote count. I befriended the Sergeant of Arms, the Republican representative. He informed me, to ensure that the ballots would be cast, the Republican Party encouraged people to vote from home, well in advance of the election.
I thought what a great idea. After assessing this dynamic, I began to do as he advised. On many occasion, this has helped me immensely. Voting can be a leisurely well-researched project when you mark your ballot from home. The days and times for an “election” are ones a voter can choose.
What for me is more fascinating and more real is the lack of awareness among people entitled to vote, and those that volunteer during campaigns. Only days ago, my telephone rang. The caller represented the Democratic Party. She sounded young; she seemed to have a script. she read from it and asked if I had received a white card, an application, allowing me to vote from home. I mentioned the “absentee ballot option.” She said “No, not that.”
At the time, I was rushed and did not have time to retrieve the document. The staff person and I parted ways. Later, I did go and look at the brochure the woman spoke of. There it was, printed right at the top, “Absentee Ballot Application.” I am new to this state and thought perhaps there were processes and pamphlets that differed from those that I am familiar with. Perchance there are.
Here, in Florida, Early Voting polling places are available. People, citizens have been casting their ballots for weeks on days other than Tuesday. Thus, again I ask, if you are a single woman and are not voting, if you have not voted in the past, please help me to understand.
As a single woman whose income is low, who struggles to make ends meet, as a female that finds it difficult to survive, that fears the need for medical assistance, as one that knows a minor or major health concern could change my life drastically, I ask why would unmarried women not vote. Why would those that need to live in a society that cares for its weaker wonders not wish to ensure that all is well? I am so confused.
Single women of America, please scream out. Participate in the process. I plead; I beseech you. I am willing to say, “I need your help!” Please support the candidates of your choosing.
Your Sample Ballot . . .
• Single Woman Vote. YouTube
• My First Time. Issues. Dreams. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
• Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
• New Survey Finds. Women’s Voices. Women Vote. February 21, 2006
• WVWV Leadership Team. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
• Women Talk About the ‘First Time’ ABC News
• 12 Days and Counting: Will Women Show up at the Polls on November 7? By Romi Lassally, Yahoo News October 26, 2006
• Organization trying to get more single women to vote,By Marylynne Pitz. Knoxville News Sentinel. October 22, 2006
• Politics 101: Swing Voters. The Online NewsHour’s Vote 2004. Public Broadcasting Services
• Women Really on Their Own, By Ruth Rosen. The Nation October 28, 2004
• Cable News Network Election Results
• Healthy, Wealthy, & Wed,By Amy M. Braverman. University of Chicago Magazine.
• Women’s Earnings, Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men’s and Women’s Earnings. United States General Accounting Office
• Sacramento Women: Women Vs. Women, By Dayna Dunteman. Sacramento Magazine October 2006
• Democrats Push to Counter G.O.P. in Turnout Race, By Adam Nagourney. New York Times. October 29, 2006