Vote Early. Vote Often.

Okay, that was sort of a joke. You can't really vote often. You can only vote once. But you may vote early if you want to! In 36 states and the District of Columbia you are allowed to vote before election day, for any reason. It's an awfully good idea - no last minute snafu, late meeting, flat tire, sick child or unexpected crisis will stop you from getting to the polls if you take care of it in the 3 weeks between now and November 6. To see if your state allows it, check out Early Voting Rules.

If you've been reading this blog, you know that mothers take it on the chin in lots of unnecessary ways. Public policy is the way to deal with at least some of these problems. Here are some important examples:

·         Prohibiting discrimination at work because a woman is pregnant or has children at home is one step that can level the playing field.

·         Establishing a minimum number of paid sick days for every working person, to be used in the event of their own or a family member's illness, can help eliminate financial disparity for family caretakers.

·         Closing the pay gap between men and women, which has persisted for decades in spite of women's superior numbers in college attendance and earning advanced degrees, can provide much needed financial security for women.

You can see what President Obama and Governor Romney think of these and other important policy measures at the AAUW Action Fund Voter Guide, when you click on "Presidential".

If you are going out to town hall meetings or getting up close to the candidates, go prepared with some specific questions.

·         Does the candidate realize that maternal and infant mortality rates in the US are much higher than other advanced countries?

·         Will s/he support stronger health care and nutrition programs for infants and expectant mothers?

·         What about beefing up the training and working conditions of child care, early education, and direct care workers?

·         How about supporting the availability of Social Security credits for family caregivers, who have high rates of poverty due to years of raising children and/or caring for ill or elderly spouses or relatives?

Our friends and colleagues at the Caring Economy Campaign offer this spiffy set of 6 Questions for the Candidates which covers vital issues like paid family leave, flexible workplace policies, and part-time worker parity. There is also a question on using economic indicators in addition to GDP so that all the unpaid care work and volunteer activity is included in productivity and social wealth measurements. Good stuff.

Many mothers frequently tell me that they feel they don't know enough to have an informed opinion. If you agree, you need read ONLY a few pages about the Congressional term that just ended, and you'll know plenty. The bulging VoteHer Toolkit contains the "Congressional Voting Record for the 112th Congress", and pages 1 - 4 explain quickly where we are and how we got here. These are the issues the new legislators will have to deal with when they move in next January. You'll know just what is at stake, and that will help you decide which candidates to support.

Remember, your state and local office holders, and your U.S. Congress members are in a position to affect your life much more than the President. Don't forget about them. Every candidate running has a website for you to consult, and you can always call their office and ask their position on a particular issue.

If you still think the trip to the voting booth is not worth your time, please, please, please read "Why Women Should Vote" from the National Women's Law Center. Mothers, especially single mothers, are reeling from the Great Recession. Women are responsible for a considerable chunk of the household income. We've lost more jobs as public sector jobs have been cut, and seen public programs, including the ones that help feed women and children, dry up in budget cuts. The results of this election will affect access to contraception, childcare assistance, tax rates, health care, pay discrimination and who gets to go to college. It's no time to cling to the side lines. Step out, speak up and vote.

'Til next time, Your (Wo)Man in Washington

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