How Young Women Can Change History On Election Day

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Above photo: Getty Images

This year’s election is as historical as it is crucial to the future of our country. Hillary Clinton just became the first woman from a leading political party to grace the presidential debate stage. It’s a major breakthrough for women, but instead of hailing this accomplishment, we’ve become more concerned than ever—particularly because issues such as affordable healthcare, paid family leave and the wage gap are at stake.

Olivia Pope on Scandal. Photo: Getty Images

We represent a majority of the U.S. population, so it’s unsurprising that women have outvoted men in every election since 1964. Combine this with millennials, who have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living demographic and comprise an equal 31 percent of the American electorate.

Yet in 2012 only 45 percent of women between 18 and 24 years old went to the polls to nominate our country’s 44th president. That’s less than half of all eligible young female voters.

But this year we might just see a change in turnout. While all issues are women’s issues, the ones facing our presidential candidates have never been more intertwined with the ways we go about our daily lives.

Award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister documented this demographic in her 2016 book, “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation,” where she wrote about the single American woman’s demands for equal pay, higher minimum wage, lowered college costs and broadly accessible reproductive rights.

Statistics show an unfair stack against women. Until President Barack Obama enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010, women faced up to 48 percent higher premiums than men. Last year was the worst in history for anti-abortion violence, with double the number of clinics blockaded and quadruple the bomb threats. And only five states between 1975 and 2005 have dropped the tampon tax, which basically insists that women pay extra just for receiving Mother Nature’s monthly gift.

"We've become a major driving force in this year's election, and candidates can certainly benefit from taking into consideration the policies that matter most to us."

But this isn’t the case for just healthcare. Young women also place heavy importance on the cost of higher education. Today more women graduate from college than men. This ensures an inevitable chain reaction: more women are paying for school, so more women bear student loan debt. It doesn’t help that women make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers yet earn only 79 cents to the dollar (black and Hispanic women are at a greater disadvantage, with a respective 60 and 55 cents to the dollar).

Not to mention the impact of gun violence—a “key driver” of homicide against women—especially when reports have indicated that it’s now easier for Americans to buy a handgun than it is for women to get an abortion. Or that women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most common victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

With women making up only 19 percent of Congress, the female vote has never been more important. The next president might just have the opportunity to appoint four Supreme Court Justices, with the passing of Antonin Scalia and three sitting judges over 75 years old. The next president may overturn landmark rulings such as Roe v. Wade (abortion), Citizens United v. FEC (regulated campaign spending) and Obergefell v. Hodges (gay marriage). Our votes can also influence who sits on federal appellate courts, which determine the outcome of up to 28,000 cases every year.

All of these are critical issues—not just for us, but for our sisters, best friends and daughters. If young women want to be heard, they should take advantage of their right to vote, particularly because this freedom was afforded to us by women of past generations. We've become a major driving force in this year's election, and candidates can certainly benefit from taking into consideration the policies that matter most to us. Now is the time to elect a leader who will not only hear our voices, but also turn words into actions.