As Florida women cast their ballots to decide the outcome of the primary elections in Tuesday’s primary, the League of Women Voters celebrates the anniversary of women getting the right to vote.
On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted. As every Florida candidate knows, women constitute more than 52 percent of the registered voters in our state. Though women are a majority of the Florida electorate, women have yet to achieve proportional representation.
In Florida, women occupy only 24.6 percent of the seats in the state Legislature. Nationally, the 113th Congress has 78 women in the House and 20 women in the Senate. While this Congress reflects a record number of seats, less than 20 percent of the membership is a long way from gender parity.
This past year we’ve seen what a difference the increased number of women in Congress has made. Watching how they’ve worked collaboratively across the aisle to move legislation has shown the positive impact of women in elected office. Locally, it’s disheartening that there are five municipalities — Miami, Miami Lakes, Miami Springs, Hialeah Gardens and South Miami — with no women on their commissions. This must be corrected.
The League of Women Voters has embarked on a concerted effort to get young women engaged in the political process. The Miami-Dade County League is actively working to encourage young women in our community to take action and make a difference. Our current board of directors is reflective of this effort, with 10 of our 16 members under the age of 35.
We are extremely encouraged by what we see in our community, at every workshop, conference or demonstration. There seems to be an increasing level of participation and activism by our youth. During our recent Women’s Equality Day event, we saw the passion and dedication of two inspiring young women. The president of the Young Republicans, Jessica Fernandez, and the president of the Young Democrats, Lili Bach, both stressed the importance of young people voting and getting elected to office. We salute their efforts.
We encourage the youth in our community, women in particular, to get involved. Voting is an important first step. It’s time for new fresh leadership to take charge and change the conversation on important issues: transportation, climate change, public safety, libraries and open spaces. As we proudly exercise our right to vote, the League will continue working to bring gender parity to every level of representative government.
Maribel Balbin, president, League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade, Miami