Voting by mail in Oregon.

Beyond Trump and Clinton: What’s at Stake On This November’s Ballot?

It’s hard after last week’s debate (or after the past six months) to imagine there’s anything at stake in the polls this November other than stopping the inevitable apocalypse that would await us should Donald Trump win (or lose, for that matter). But, in truth, there’s a lot more at stake on your ballot than your choice of Commander-in-Chief. And we’re here to help.

Here are some issues feminist voters should take very seriously, plus some great resources to help get you thinking as you cast your vote.

Death penalty: The death penalty disproportionately targets black men, especially black men who are convicted of crimes against white victims. In particular, black men accused of raping white women — and thereby violating white femininity — have always been, and still are, the prime targets of state sanctioned violence and lynching. As feminists, we must come out forcefully against the death penalty.

Minimum wage: A highly important issue for women, particularly women of color, who constitute two third of the workers on minimum wage, a minimum wage increase would inch us towards closing the wage gap. Here’s more reading on why minimum wage is a feminist issue.

Healthcare: The National Organization for Women (NOW) has discussed extensively why healthcare is a feminist issue, given that women not only pay more for healthcare while earning less, but also have unique health needs that they have difficulty accessing in the absence of universal healthcare. Read more here and here.

  • Colorado‘s Amendment 69, a citizen initiated constitutional amendment, would make waves by instituting the nation’s first single-payer healthcare system.

Gun control: It’s a thorny and complex issue that comes with a range of concerns for us to keep in mind as feminists. It’s well documented that guns in the home are deadly, particularly for victims of domestic violence. Some gun control laws, though, have been used as a tool of racist surveillance, restricting only certain people from accessing guns.

  • Four states will be taking up gun control on this year’s ballot, on various issues ranging from large capacity magazines (California); expanded background checks (Nevada and Maine); and keeping firearms away from potentially dangerous people (Washington). If you’re from any of these four states, have a careful read through the measures, and articles like those above, before you cast your vote.

Porn: Feminists have long debated the issue of regulation of the porn industry: here, here, here, here, here, here  and here are some great feminist reads on the condoms and regulation issue to check out before you vote.

  • California is struggling with the issue of whether or not actors in porn films should be mandated to wear condoms.

Forced prison labor: Remember how the U.S. Constitution said slavery is not okay– “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”? Criminal justice activists have pointed out this phrasing is uncomfortably telling, given the disproportionate mass incarceration of African Americans in our slavery-like prison system.

  • Colorado, which has a similar provision to the 13th Amendment in its state constitution, is voting to strike out that clause — and with it, remove the capacity of the state to force unpaid labor out of its prisoners, or to force prisoners to work without their consent. Here’s Victoria Law writing about carceral feminism — and why feminists need to come out against, and care about, mass incarceration.

Education:

  • Perhaps the most impactful education measure on the ballot would be Oregon‘s bid to increase funding for drop-out prevention and college readiness programs by about 8% to what the state currently spends on education per student. Given that Oregon has the second lowest public school graduation rate in the nation, and in particular low graduation rates for students of color, students with disabilities, and low-income students, this measure could provide an important boost to the state’s floundering education system. It will in particular give a leg up to those who are oppressed the most and whose upward mobility is strictly curtailed by lack of educational opportunities. The measure is supported by numerous teacher’s associations, associations for students of color of various ethnicities, and various progressive feminist organizations as well.

Voter ID laws: There’s compelling evidence that voting fraud happens too sparsely to be of any real concern, and that voter ID laws have always been designed to rob poor minority communities of the right to vote. Women (especially women of color) and trans communities bear a lot of this disenfranchisement. Voter ID laws also facilitate conservatives coming into power, allowing them to institute laws that curb access to social services and reproductive justice that again disproportionately affect women.

  • Missouri voters face an urgent and uphill battle to reject the constitutional amendment that would require photo identification in order to participate in elections.

Marijuana: Although legalization is a popular liberal frontier, there are nuanced issues to keep in mind about weed as you cast your vote. There’s arguments that weed is the new feminist issue in vogue, and smoking is important from a woman’s health perspective. However, on the other side, it’s also important to remember the right to smoke weed legally and the consequences of so doing stretch well beyond the borders of the US — and the unethical sourcing of weed from Latin America must play an important role in the discussion of its legalization.  The conversation about marijuana must also not be delinked from race: while progressives support legalizing weed because of the disproportionate enforcement of drug laws against Black people, there are reports that suggest in practice, states that have legalized weed have not eliminated the racial biases in who gets arrested for illegal possession and distribution, and the industry is still whitewashed.

During the Democratic primary, a wave of progressivism overtook millennials throughout the country, giving us a glimpse into a nation that asks more of its government. Several of the proposed laws on the ballots would strengthen that progressive vision for the nation, and help us in our struggle to keep the future president of this country in check, ensuring that she works for the good of all communities, and all people, in the United States.

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Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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