The Undecideds: Could These Women Tip the Election?

BlogHer Original Post


These six women could decide the election.

Undecided Voters

The debates are over. In less than two weeks, the United States votes in a too-close-to-call presidential election. Many pundits believe that the result will come down to still-undecided voters in the nine swing states (or "purple" or "battleground" states, where polling and previous voting is mixed). These are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

These undecided voters, in these states? They're popular. Both candidates are giving up sleep trying to meet as many of them as possible in the next two weeks; they're getting blitzed with TV ads and polls. In the "most crucial" state of Ohio and high-stakes Florida, the glare is extreme: multiple daily polls, county-by-county vote speculation, and door-to-door campaigning.

These voters also attract a different kind of attention. Friends who made up their minds long ago wonder how anyone could remain in doubt. Journos speculate that most voters who say they're undecided know, but they're not telling; that the "true" undecided voter is "like a unicorn." Slate published a sarcastic letter to the undecided voter titled "Do You Exist?" while Saturday Night Live mocked undecideds mercilessly as stupid and shallow.

We put out a call, and (though voters in Ohio and Florida aren't talking just yet) we had conversations with six women who -- yes -- are still undecided, for personal, complex, and important reasons that rang with truth. Meet them now.

NEXT PAGE: Karen from Wisconsin: "My gut says vote one way, my heart says the other"


WISCONSIN: Karen, 55

Karen Undecided Wisconsin

What would make you decide?

I thought this last debate would make me decide. I felt both candidates did well during the debate. I felt that Romney was a bit rude. I felt Obama was confident.

What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

Something to jump out square and obvious, right in my face, that says, "This is YOUR guy." I'm still hopeful that might happen in the next two weeks. Maybe if Romney releases his tax returns.

If you remain undecided, will you vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

Yes, I am definitely going to vote. Nothing will keep me from the polls on Election Day! I've watched both candidates closely this year; I've read both of their plans. My gut says vote one way, but my heart says vote the other way. Either way, when I exit the polls, I will feel good about my decision. Hopefully!

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

No. Last election, I wanted to vote my party but felt that the Republican choice for VP was poor. That made me not trust the candidate's decision-making abilities, were he to be elected POTUS.

What issues are most important to you this election?

Healthcare reform, lower taxes, stimulus for small businesses to grow.

Are you affiliated with a particular party? Why/why not?

Yes, I've always been a registered Republican.

Do you mind sharing how you’ve voted in the past?

I've voted straight party Republican every election except the last one. I voted for Obama.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

Hubby is definitely not undecided. He's voting Republican because he feels he'd be hurting himself by voting Democrat. He feels President Obama is anti-small business and will tax us more heavily (we are in the highest tax bracket already). I think he feels betrayed that I'm not on his side, because in his words, if I don't vote like he does, I'm voting against our dental practice, our livelihood. That gives me a lot of angst. Sigh!

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

I'm really torn this year, for a few reasons.

I don't support mid- or late-term abortion, but I do support women's rights. So does that make me Republican? Actually, it makes me Karen. I know our politicians aren't going to go into office and overturn this right we have, but in my gut, in my heart, I feel it's wrong. Can I vote for a president that supports whatever as far as abortion is concerned? I don't know. But Mr. Romney has flip-flopped so much, I don't know what he really feels about abortion or any other issue now.

Which brings me to supporting our president. He brought the troops home from Iraq, he's put into place an exit strategy in Afghanistan, he killed bin Laden! I think he's kept a level head during the last four years. He wasn't exactly left with a picnic, you know?

There are plenty of things I don't like, especially raising taxes in our income level. With the income our practice is earning, we are able to expand and grow and employ more people. Why penalize us for that? We aren't in the elite that pays the lucky 14 percent; we are in the highest tax bracket. As for Obamacare, I'm glad there is coverage for all. But let's tackle health insurance costs. I've had major health issues in the past, but how can they get away with charging us so much? How is this fair?

So yeah, it's a tough year for me to decide.

Karen blogs at Karen Lynn Sandoval and tweets as KarenLynnn.

NEXT: Emily from Virginia: "I have zero respect for either candidate or party"


VIRGINIA: Emily, 31

Emily Undecided VA

What would make you decide? What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

An honest campaign focused on a personal agenda. I feel both candidates are smudging the truth about themselves and their opponents. I would also like to see a candidate/party who is respectful of the opponent, as that would show true character to me.

If you remain undecided, will you vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

I will make a decision on Nov 6 based on all the information I’ve seen up until that day, and also going with my "gut."

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

In all elections, I keep an open mind and research the candidates before making a choice. Sometimes I make a decision quickly; other times I’m still deciding months or weeks before the election.

What issues are most important to you this election?

Economy, hands down.

Are you affiliated with a particular party? Why/why not?

I am affiliated with the Republican party; I was a Pennsylvania resident when I was 18, and (at the time) you were required to be affiliated with a party in order to vote in the primaries. When I moved to Virginia at age 22, I assumed the same thing was true and continued my affiliation. However, I consider myself a true independent.

Do you mind sharing how you’ve voted in the past?

I’ve voted Republican and Democrat for presidential elections and for Senate/local elections.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

My husband, family and extended family are all decided voters.

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

If I can get on my soapbox, I have zero respect for either candidate or party. In a battleground state, I would estimate 80% of commercials on TV during the morning and prime-time hours are ads attacking the other candidate. I’ve watched the debates, done the research on what they are saying, and both of them give a version of the truth, merging the truth into what people want to hear. Both of them dodge the questions they are asked, trying not to offend anyone or lose a vote. They speak harshly at each other; they fail to acknowledge the extraordinary accomplishments that they’ve both achieved. With regard to the way they and their parties have conducted themselves during this campaign, they have both proven to be poor role models for us and our children. If you take their campaigns at face value, the message is "make the other person look worse than you," and we shouldn’t vote someone to run our country based on this message.

Our country is on an unsustainable path, with regard to our debt and spending. We need a candidate who can say, "This is where we are. Let's stop pointing fingers at the people who got us here and/or who haven’t helped us recover fast enough and outline an honest plan of getting out of debt. We all know that requires a change to taxes and major cuts in spending," et cetera. Stop telling us what we want to hear, and tell us what we need to hear.

NEXT: Dana from Colorado: "I find myself focusing less on single issues"


COLORADO: Dana, 43

Dana Undecided Colorado

What would make you decide?

I wanted the debates to finish out their run before I decided. Sadly, I don't think they helped me much, because they seemed to end in a draw. So I have some figuring out to do. The VP debate was more interesting than any of the presidential ones, by far. Both Biden (leering giggler) and Ryan (man who sweats ice cubes) made me very, very afraid.

What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

Hard, specific answers instead of generalizations, pandering, and misinformation. As if that's ever going to happen. Ha!

If you remain undecided, will vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

Dang straight. Women fought hard for that right, and I won't dishonor that struggle by not voting.I do mail-in ballots, because I hate to wait in line.

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

Almost always, and it's annoying. I'm never completely happy or in agreement with either party.

What issues are most important to you this election?

Interesting question. I was talking with my husband yesterday, and I said that women are often one-two issue voters, and in my younger years, I was, too. If you didn't support abortion, that would make up my mind. Hate homosexuals? Mind made up. As I get older, I find myself focusing less on single issues and more of the bigger plan for the nation. Maybe because I have kids now. But it makes my decision a lot harder.

Are you affiliated with a particular party? Why/why not?

I am a registered Republican, so I can vote in the primaries and try to get those freakshow Tea Party people out as soon as possible.

Do you mind sharing how you’ve voted in the past?

I voted for Obama in the past election, and pulled the lever for Clinton. If they hadn't saddled McCain with a ridiculous running mate, I would perhaps have voted differently.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

We both wait until the final week or so to decide, and talk (sometimes argue) about the issues that we think are most crucial to the nation and the future of our children.

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

Republicans made a very bad decision to cozy up with the Tea Party. I feel frustrated because I don't think there is a place in politics for me -- I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative, so basically, I'm out of luck. We need a third party that can really appeal to the fringe voters who feel disenfranchised. And there are a lot of us out there.

Dana T. blogs at The Kitchen Witch.

NEXT: Shaun from New Hampshire: "I've been bombarded by politics"


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Shaun, 27

Shaun Undecided NH

What would make you decide?

I'm honestly not sure...I'm waiting for either candidate to say something that just hits home for me. It might be an economic issue, women's rights, foreign policy, etc.

What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

I want to hear a clear plan for the economy : How job creation will be helped, since the government cannot create jobs.

If you remain undecided, will you vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

Yes. I have a write-in candidate that I've favored since 2008 (I'd prefer to vote for someone on the ballot before resorting to my write-in). I will make a decision prior to Election Day.

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

No, not always. I was pretty decided my past two election votes.

What issues are most important to you this election?

Economy. I am a young American working in the car industry with college debt. I am worried about my job, about my salary and it increasing to keep up with the food and gas increases (as well as other living expenses). I want to be able to pay off our debt, buy a house, have a second kid, and save for retirement...much like my parents have been able to do.

Are you affiliated with a particular party? Why/why not?

No. I've voted both Republican and Democratic in the past. I believe in smaller government and find myself leaning toward the Republican side on financial matters, but I also believe in social issues where I find myself more aligned to the Democrats.

Do you mind sharing how you’ve voted in the past?

I've voted Democratic, Republican in the past 2 presidential elections I've been eligible to vote for.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

My husband's decided on his vote, as are my parents and in-laws.

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

I say this every year, and perhaps it hits me since New Hampshire is the first in the nation with our primary election: I'm sick of it. For the past year or so, I've been bombarded by politics. Not just on the TV but in the yard signs, rallies that disrupt my commute, and mailers. I wish they also focused on the positive and were less misleading in articles on their opponents.

Shaun McGahey blogs at Living With Peanut and tweets as @apnuttymama.

NEXT: Kristen from North Carolina: "The past four years have exhausted me"


NORTH CAROLINA: Kristen, 43

Kristen Undecided NC

What would make you decide?

If either candidate could actually state WHAT they're going to do to make the changes that they're promising. How they're going to get opposing parties to reach across the aisles, agree to disagree and then get on with fixing what's wrong with our country.

After listening to all three presidential debates as well as the VP debate, I had hoped that something would have happened to make me go "AHA! That's it!" But it never did. For each crazy thing one candidate said, the other had something equally insane.

What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

An honest answer, a clear plan and our country as a priority. I realize that no one can come into office and make all the changes quickly, but if you're taking over the highest office in the country, please tell me you at least have bullet points.

If you remain undecided, will you vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

Yes, I will vote.

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

No. I can only think of one other time that I was this undecided, and that was the 2000 election.

What issues are most important to you this election?

Our economy. I can't remember a time where our family has struggled as much as it has the past four years. We've managed to stay above water, unlike many, but it's been difficult. After I lost my job four years ago, I was unable to find a job in my field. After looking and looking, I made the decision to start my own company, figuring that if I continued to wait for the economy to turn around, we'd be doomed for sure. But I am so tired of watching the "middle class" disappear, telling my kids that we can't do this or that (and the requests aren't frivolous, believe me), and robbing from Peter to give to Paul. In a nutshell, the past four years have exhausted me. And even though the "you didn't build this" episode was blown out of proportion somewhat, it ticked me off -- because yes, I DID build this. When no one else wanted to bring me on board, I took matters into my own hands, busted my tail, and now have a successful, growing business. I'm not rich, but I know that I'm better off now than if I had waited.

Are you affiliated with a particular party? Why/why not?

Yes. I'm a registered Democrat, mainly for my social views. But if I had to label myself now, I'd say I was an Independent.

Do you mind sharing how you’ve voted in the past?

I've voted Democratic in every election except one.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

LOL -- we are a house divided! My husband is a Republican (I call him a liberal Republican; his social views are more in line with mine), which makes for some interesting debates, usually. However, this year I've been more open to hear his point of view as it relates to the fiscal points of view of the Republicans.

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

I am not joking when I say that every day I change my mind about who I'm going to vote for. I've literally had conversations in my head about my vote. I want to say to President Obama, "My life is NOT better now than it was four years ago and I want to know what your plan is to make sure that my NEXT four years ARE going to be better." Do I think Romney will improve our financial situation? I don't know, but I don't think it can be much worse. What terrifies me about Romney and Ryan is their social views... I wonder and hope that if Romney goes into office, he will be so busy correcting the fiscal state that he won't have time to do anything with his (lack of) a women's rights agenda.

Seriously, If our government would spend as much time worrying about the real issues (fiscal, employment, education) as they do worrying about who gets married and what I do with my body, we'd all be so much better off. At this point, I would like to live to see the day where my vote doesn't go to the "lesser of the two evils."

Kristen Daukas blogs at Four Hens and a Rooster; she's also on Facebook and Twitter.

NEXT: Carolyn from Colorado: "I chose to become a citizen so I could vote"


COLORADO: Carolyn, 39

Carolyn Undecided Colorado

What would make you decide?

I need to do more research. I felt like I knew who I was going to vote for then I read a little more. I also will discuss some issues with close friends (non-judgmental) and get some feedback. There are two sides to every story, there are many different opinions.

I need to feel like I believe who I will be voting for, and that they believe in what they are saying and will carry out their promises.

What is it you've been looking for to help sway you one way or the other?

Again, belief. The debate this week helped. I felt like I saw something in one of the candidates that I hadn't seen before. A genuine idea, belief, thought, idea, of what they thought was good for the US and its citizens. Spelled out, not glossed over with stats, etc. Or not some canned response, or showboating.

If you remain undecided, will you vote? Will you go to the polls and vote what you feel that day?

I plan not to be undecided. When I vote, I vote.

Do you always approach elections as undecided?

This is my first U.S. election, and I wrote a post about it. (I became a citizen last year.)

What issues are most important to you this election?

In no particular order: Healthcare, education, the economy, national security, women's issues.

Is your partner/family, if applicable, also undecided?

Sort of, but he has been leaning one way all election.

Anything else you’d like to say about the election?

I just want people to research and vote. Have a voice. Let themselves be heard. One of the reasons I chose to become a citizen was so I could vote. I have two young daughters, and I want to be able to have a say in their future, in their country.

And you can't complain if you don't vote :)

Carolyn blogs at Hooked and happy. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Editor's note: BlogHer reached out to women of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities for their perspective, but we were unable to find undecided voters for this post. If you're interested in sharing your own thoughts, leave a comment or email email me -- I'd love to add your thoughts.

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