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Special Women's Equality Day Essay

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

In a special message on Women's Equality Day, Women's eNews editor in chief Rita Henley Jensen outlines the political coverage the news service will provide throughout the election campaign.

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In a special message on Women's Equality Day, Women's eNews editor in chief Rita Henley Jensen outlines the political coverage the news service will provide throughout the election campaign.
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Rita Henley Jensen

(WOMENSENEWS)--Eighty-four years ago today women gained the right to vote.

Over time, we have gained the numerical superiority to be the critical factor in the outcome of this crucial national election. Only one threshold remains: The will, the determination, to exert our authority in the voting booth this fall.

Women's eNews is banking on women having all of the above.

Many studies have shown that women do better when more women are in power. The U.S. ranks 59th in the world for elected female representatives to our national legislature, with only 14 female senators and 60 female members of House.

Thus, while other media at this point is consumed with discussing who did what during the Vietnam War and the debate over the invasion of Iraq, Women's eNews will be delivering news--straight up to Election Day--about the presidential candidates' positions on issues of particular concern to women. We will also closely cover the runs by female politicians--Republican and Democratic--for the Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the governor's mansions.

We take a different approach. At next week's Republican Convention, our reporters will be looking for stories about female candidates and women's issues, just as they did at the Democratic Convention.

Thus, Women's eNews will be covering the races that could land more women in higher office and change these numbers for the better. And we will package it for you. To read any of our election stories or the series, just go to our home page, http://www.womensenews.org, and click on the campaign image in the center of the page for a full listing and links to our campaign coverage.

As we gather more information, we will put it all together in an interactive map indicating what we will call the HOT PINK races. These races are not about red or blue. These are the elections that could significantly affect the well-being of women.

These ranks could swell this year, with such Senate candidates as Democrats Nancy Farmer in Missouri, Betty Castor in Florida and Inez Tenenbaum in South Carolina, all of whom are running surprisingly strong campaigns. Republican Lisa Murkowski in Alaska is also looking at a chance to be elected to a full term in her own right. We will also track a host of other female candidates likely to win seats in the House and follow the race that could give the keys to the Washington governor's mansion to Christine Gregoire.


Female Swing Voters Have Race's Outcome in Their Hands

Around 60 percent of undecided voters and a majority of swing voters are women, according to pollsters at a press conference this week. Unmarried women, especially young, unmarried, undecided women are the most likely to stay at home on Nov. 2, according to these analysts.

In the last presidential election, unmarried women made up the largest group of eligible voters who did not register or who did not vote: 22 million unmarried women who were eligible to vote didn't cast a ballot and 16 million did not register.

This year, estimates are that less than half of all single women between ages 18 and 34 will not register or not vote. In fact, many see politics as something "old white men do" reports The White House Project, an organization dedicated to fostering women's participation in the electoral process.


Young Female Voters at Risk

Young female voters, however, are the ones who most need to go to the polls. They are most at risk for experiencing avoidable life-changing events. They are most at risk for unwanted pregnancies; most at risk for poverty; most at risk for suffering employment discrimination; most at risk for rape and other forms of violence; and most at risk for believing that these events reflect a personal failure of a sort.

And these voters, pollsters say, also believe the presidential candidates do not understand their needs or how they live their daily lives. These voters also say the presidential candidates have not expressed strong views on the issues they care about: access to health care, job equity and family violence. A recent Lifetime Television and Rock the Vote poll indicated that fewer than 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 believed that either presidential candidate understood women like them very well.


In-Depth Coverage of Issues

So in addition to covering the races, Women's eNews has produced two special reports that take an in-depth look at national issues of particular concern to women now. The first, by health specialist Molly M. Ginty, was a three-part series detailing the presidential candidates' proposals for changing the U.S. health care system. http://womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1965/

The second includes a five-part series, "Mothers Without a Net," by poverty reporter Jennifer Friedlin. It began appearing on Friday, Aug. 6 and the final installment will be published on Friday, Sept. 3. The series is reported from the viewpoint of single mothers. It details how the 1996 welfare law's child care, child support, domestic violence and block grant provisions have failed to meet the promises made when the law was passed. In fact, the series documents how the current federal support system for single-parent families has helped many women gain jobs but has also pushed many other single mothers into deepest poverty.

Women's eNews is also aware that all women, but especially younger women, care deeply about reproductive freedom and the availability of reproductive health care--from emergency contraception to the so-called Gag Rule applied to international family planning. Women's eNews award-winning coverage of issues related to reproductive health and autonomy will continue throughout the campaign. When we write about a candidate, we will make clear her or his position on these vital concerns.

In fact, we will stay up late election night, posting on our Web site until 3 a.m. the results of the races in which women are running and women's issues are paramount.

This is all hoping that if we do our job well, inform our readers on the issues and the candidates concerned about women's issues, it will make it easier for you, the reader to do your part in honoring Woman's Equality Day.

Vote. And take young women with you. Cherish the opportunity and relish the power.

Rita Henley Jensen is editor in chief of Women's eNews.

-- Juhie Bhatia assisted in the reporting of this essay.

For more information:

The White House Project--Vote, Run, Lead.:
http://www.voterunlead.org

Lifetime Television for Women--Every Woman Counts:
http://www.lifetimetv.com/community/olc/ewc/index.html

Women's Voices. Women Vote:
http://www.wvwv.org