By Ava Lee-Green
On November 21, the ERA Coalition hosted a town hall event to recap the 2022 election and what those outcomes mean for women’s equality. Zakiya Thomas, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality, welcomed the audience and introduced the panelists.
The first panelist introduced was Vice President of Lake Research Partners, Cate Gormley. In collaboration with nonprofits, foundations, and advocacy groups, Gormley and Lake Research Partners conduct a wide range of research regarding reproductive health, women’s leadership, and gender-based violence, among many other issues. She has also worked to defeat anti-choice bills in North Dakota, Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico.
The next panelist introduced was Amanda Brown Lierman, the Executive Director of Supermajority and Supermajority Education Fund. These sister organizations work to empower a wide range of women through education and training programs. As Executive Director, Amanda is one of very few women of color leading a large, multi-racial women’s organization. Before working at Supermajority, she was the Democratic National Committee’s Political and Organizing Director during the midterms in 2018.
The final panelist was Jeri Burton, President of the Nevada chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She previously represented the western region on the organization’s national board and was chair of NOW’s committee focused on the ERA. She recently led the ballot initiative in Nevada to include an expanded ERA in the Nevada state Constitution, which would be the most inclusive ERA in the country.
A Brief Overview
Before beginning the discussion, Zakiya Thomas gave some background to the outcome of the most recent election. With the predicted “red wave”, many expected this election not to be accommodating of issues such as the ERA, access to abortion, environmental justice, and voting rights. But this was not the case. This election is being called one of the most diverse elections ever.
“We can celebrate that voters came out and voted for equality.” – Zakiya Thomas @ZakiyaEraTweet
Cate Gromley, who had done polls in battleground states on behalf of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine before the election, said that they had discovered that while inflation and the economy were influences on women and young voters’ decisions, access to abortion and women’s rights were just as critical issues. She also noted, however, that this trend was not the same in men.
The 2022 Elections
“Women are Voting” was a campaign that Amanda Brown Lierman and Supermajority ran to give a space for women to voice their emotions following the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and to use that anger to encourage women to vote for their rights in this election. She explains that this is what the pundits got wrong. Women, especially young voters and voters of color, used their anger, sadness, and hope to fight for their rights and the world that we want.
“Hope…Women’s greatest superpower.” – Amanda Brown Lierman @AmandaK_BTweet
In Nevada, almost six out of every ten voters voted in favor of amending Nevada’s state constitution to prohibit the infringement of rights on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, etc. Jeri Burton credited the success to the team of volunteers who advocated for the inclusion of the initiative on the ballot during the legislative sessions, as well as other advocacy groups like Generation Ratify and Planned Parenthood. She also acknowledged that, because this was a more localized fight, community outreach was crucial for their success in this election.
Despite the expected “red wave”, Amanda Brown Lierman said that the high rates of early voting and voter registration were good indications of the outcome of the elections. She also cited the number of campaign volunteers for this election. The Covid-19 pandemic and the decision made during the SCOTUS case Dobbs v. Jackson gave women a reason to feel broken down. Yet, they still showed up in full force and with a motivation to fight for their rights and equality.
There were high rates of new voter registration, especially in young women, following the Dobbs decision, but Cate Gormley also mentioned that pundits make their predictions based on who they think will actually turn up on election day to vote. This is one of the main reasons the initial predictions and the election’s outcome were so different.
The evolution of the messages being spread by Supermajority and countless other advocacy groups has contributed greatly to the outcomes of this election. In the past few years it has been made clear that power-hungry men are looking to have control over women’s bodies and lives. Although that is a belief that many do not hold, there is a way to have empathy while still valuing freedom and equality. By spreading this message, Brown Lierman hopes that there will be a group of young voters who can empathize with others but stay true to their values.
“Organizing is about telling stories.” – Amanda Brown Lierman @AmandaK_BTweet
In this election cycle, she revealed that many people felt more comfortable talking about sensitive issues, such as abortion. More and more people have been sharing their stories and experiences, which has sparked conversations grounded in the freedoms people should have over their bodies. Sharing these stories has united women and been crucial during the election.
Now that the amended state-wide ERA has been passed, Jeri Burton and NOW Nevada are looking to continue pushing for the national ERA. With a majority female legislature in Nevada and two Senators who support the ERA, Burton hopes to continue working with them and other organizations to fight for women’s rights in the state as well as nationally.
Can the slim majority in the Senate now vote on the ERA?
The short answer is yes! As both Burton and Thomas mentioned, there is a very small window in which it can happen. At the moment, attention needs to be on the Georgia run-off election in December. If we want the ERA to advance, we must maintain the majority in the Senate.
How do we effectively communicate to everyone that women’s rights/issues are economic issues and connected to women’s finances?
According to Cate Gormley, many voters already understand that abortion, birth control, equal pay, etc. are tied to economic security. So, repetition is key to put emphasis on this idea.
Do writing postcards and other volunteer work from home actually help?
Both Lierman Brown and Burton agreed that any form of communication can be effective in spreading the message around. Writing postcards is a way for people to participate in the movement from home. As Burton noted, writing letters is a great way to introduce the ERA to young people.
What should we be focusing on during this lame-duck session before the House of Reps. is controlled by the Republican party?
The main thing you can do right now is contact your state senator and tell them to tell Senator Schumer to bring the ERA to the floor for a vote (S.J.Res.1). Go to eracoalition.org/scheduleavote to take action now.
In the last minutes of the livestream, Zakiya Thomas thanked the Feminist Majority and Ms. Magazine for the pre-election polling they conducted. The findings in those polls were crucial in “giving us hope” that women were going to show up to the elections and fight for their rights. She closed out the town hall by thanking the audience and panelists for their participation in the conversation.