While we only know of one woman who made sure to cast her vote even though her water had broken and her contractions were five minutes apart, she was far from alone in her determination to make her voice heard at the polls yesterday in an election season where women’s health, reproductive rights, and fair pay were frequent flashpoints. Women made up the majority of the electorate on Tuesday—53 percent. Unmarried women were 23 percent of voters, up from 20 percent in 2008. And women’s votes were key to yesterday’s results.
Five new female Senators were elected, resulting in a record 20 women in the Senate. In New Hampshire as of January, for the first time ever in a state the governor, both senators, and all House members will be women.
Women made the difference in rejecting a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. In Maryland, which made history when it joined Maine and (it seems based on the current returns) Washington State in legalizing same-sex marriage by ballot measure yesterday, women with children were the strongest supporters of the measure, with nearly two-thirds supporting. Similarly, a majority of married women in Washington state supported its referendum legalizing same-sex marriage (while a majority of married men opposed). And voters in Florida soundly defeated an attempt to amend the state constitution to limit abortion rights.
The gender gap remained strong last night. Women and men tended to support different candidates, and by and large, from the presidency to Congress, the candidates that women supported won. On Election Day, women showed their power at the polls—a crucial step toward ensuring that our newly elected and re-elected leaders govern with women’s interests in mind.