If the midterm elections were any indication, women will decide the 2020 election — but only if they show up.
Illinois Women Vote was born out of friendship and a desire to cut through the confusion to empower women to make informed choices at the polls.
My good friends Kimberly Walz, who was the director of Illinois Women for Hillary, and Sarah Kammerer, a co-founder of ChiWomenVote, share my belief that information is power and engagement is critical. That’s why we’ve pooled our networks of more than 8,000 women to form a nonpartisan, no-nonsense organization that encourages women to cast ballots based on their beliefs and not what social media bots or pundits want them to think.
We don’t make endorsements. We are not, nor will we ever be, an organization that pushes a political agenda. Instead, we are creating a forum for women in Illinois to gain access to candidates without having to pay for a ticket to a fundraiser.
A few months ago, when presidential candidates were announcing left and right, Kimberly, Sarah and I got together and asked ourselves, “How in the world are people supposed to decide?”
The candidacies were becoming overwhelming. Every time you looked at your phone, there was someone new in the race to become Commander in Chief. On paper, they have seemingly similar positions on social issues, economic issues, foreign affairs and the current administration. Differentiating between candidates, we realized, was going to be hard for anyone.
Our votes are precious and need to be based on informed decisions. Every voter has his or her own sets of priorities. It isn’t for us to determine those priorities for others, but instead, create space so individuals can prioritize for themselves. A constant skeptic, I have never believed in “doing as I was told,” but, rather, in deciding for myself. As the daughter of a Soviet immigrant and granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, that philosophy has always remained steady — from the boardroom to the ballot. I want other women to have that choice, too.
Illinois Women Vote has been asked if we’d host President Trump. That’s a great question. Above all, our organization is about integrity. And respect. Especially respect for women. For our state. And for the City of Chicago. Any candidate who cannot demonstrate respect for our gender will not be welcome. To date, we’ve not seen those qualities demonstrated by the President. Any other Republican candidate who demonstrates integrity and respect for our gender will be given a forum if he or she would like one. We are committed to bringing diversity of thought to our organization. And while our goal is to empower women with unfiltered knowledge, we will not subject them to hate, ridicule, objectification or verbal abuse.
Access to candidates, the ability to ask questions and gathering information directly from the source are the keys to fostering an informed electorate.
In the past, this kind of access to candidates in the run-up to presidential elections has been limited to voters in caucus or battleground states, or those with the ability to write a large check. We want to change that.
Women will travel to battleground states on the weekends, knock on doors, pick up the phone.
Why shouldn’t they also have access to candidates to help them decide with whom to volunteer their free time? Grassroots campaigning is not just about $5 donations; it’s also about direct voter contact.
The 2020 election needs engaged women.
The night that Illinois Women Vote was born, Kimberly, Sarah and I were attending a fundraiser in connection with the recent Chicago mayoral election. Within months, we organized events with presidential candidates Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Congressmen Eric Swalwell and Seth Moulton. We have created connections with many of the other campaigns and are working to plan future meet and greets with as many 2020 Presidential candidates as possible. We have also collaborated with other organizations on their events.
We are also hosting debate watch parties. At our first debate party, we had women in attendance who had just moved to Chicago or were new to politics and looking for a group to connect with and experience the debates. Politics in Chicago can be insular and intimidating to newcomers or perceived outsiders. We are working to break down that wall.
We want both men and women to partner with Illinois Women Vote because we are a passionate group of women committed to the democratic process.
When women show up to the voting polls, we want them armed with what they need to cast an informed ballot, one that they believe in.