Women’s office tells girls to go and vote

Amber Schadewald

Minnesota has never elected a woman U.S. Senator, and only about 30 percent of state legislators are women.

This year, voters have the chance to make a change, according to some campus organizers.

The Office for University Women’s “Go Vote Girl 2006” campaign is an attempt to get women interested in voting and someday running for office themselves.

Claire Walter-Marchetti, director of the office, said she hopes women will use the opportunity next month to vote and let their voices be heard.

“This election, there are strong women candidates and women students need to pay attention,” Walter-Marchetti said, though the office doesn’t endorse any particular parties.

As part of the campaign, the office will show two films this week, including “Iron Jawed Angels,” which tells the story of the women’s suffrage movement.

Walter-Marchetti said many people don’t realize that women weren’t able to first cast votes 85 years ago.

“It’s important that young women know what women before us had to go through,” she said.

The other movie, “Delfina Presidenta,” is about the dangers women face when they run for office in Mexico and the economic, cultural and religious barriers they encounter.

“Looking at the status of women in Mexico really helps us understand what a precious right (voting and running for office) is,” Walter-Marchetti said. “It’s a precious privilege.”

Moviegoers will also have the opportunity to register to vote.

The films will be followed by discussions facilitated by University faculty, including Chicano studies professor Toni Herrera.

Herrera said voting is an important slice of the political process but disagreed with the stress that is being put on people to vote.

She said showing up one day to cast a ballot isn’t enough.

“It’s not effective to just tell people to ‘vote, vote, vote,’ ” Herrera said. “That’s limiting political activity.”

Herrera stressed the importance of being involved year-round through education about the issues and taking action – not just waiting on elected politicians to fight for a cause.

“I think there are a lot of politics that happen outside the electoral arena that are more important than just the electoral process,” Herrera said.

Although the ultimate goal is getting women to be politically involved in the long term, Sara Fenlason, executive director of the Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund, said voting is a great first step.

She recommends young women try volunteering on a campaign as a way to understand the process from a different perspective and begin to see what their own campaign platform could look like.

Fenlason said there has been a notable increase in the amount of women politicians in Minnesota, but there’s still a long way to go.

“At this current rate of progress, it could take up to 200 years to catch up to men,” she said.

Ginny Howick, a genetics sophomore, said although she doesn’t consider herself politically active during the rest of the year, she will vote.

“Voting is the foundation of our political system,” Howick said. “I think it’s the most important part of the whole process.”

Jim Forrey, a political science and sociology junior, is a member of Democracy Matters, a student group that registers voters on campus and tries to make it easy for students to be involved.

“If they pay attention now, there is more of a chance that they will be more involved past the election,” Forrey said.

Laura Hammond, a public policy graduate student, works with the Minnesota League of Women Voters to reach

members of the community who traditionally vote less, such as immigrants, new citizens, low-income voters and students.

“For democracy to work, we need everyone’s participation and everyone’s voice,” Hammond said.