The Key to Virginia's Gubernatorial Elections? Young Women

A young woman voting in Virginia's Gubernatorial Elections

If any elected official is looking for a nomination, aim to please one of the most powerful voting blocs: young women. In 2012, 7% more women between the ages of 18 and 29 voted than men in the same age group.

Nowhere is this trend more evident that in Virginia, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is leading in the polls, owing much of his success to young female voters. This is a major shift from the 2009 elections when Virginia’s young voters did not come out in large numbers. That year, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell came out the victor. Virginia is a battleground state where voters are polarized, but candidates have realized that they can’t get a victory without the help of young people — evident in McAuliffe’s use of his resources to tour all of Virginia’s community colleges.

Because our vote is so powerful, groups like Rock the Vote are campaigning hard to get young voters out to the polls, and they are putting special emphasis on young women of color, a good move considering Black and Hispanic young women overwhelming vote for progressive candidates.

As right wing candidates continue to strip policies that disproportionately affect young women, such as the fight for VAWA, abortion restrictions, the pay gap, contraception coverage restrictions, immigration reform, and welfare cuts, we are taking notice. The president of Rock the Vote, Heather Smith, notices too. In response to the backlash against women’s reproductive health, she said, "We will stand up! We will do something about it!"

Women’s bodies have become a battleground for politicians to express their political and moral views, making our vote one of the most powerful tools in these elections.

Tieast Plummer, 23, is a young voter from Virginia. She is working with Rock the Vote to help gather young female voters around issues that affect them. Abortion is one of her top priorities, saying, "I should be able to control my own body." But she is not only voting on matters of reproductive health. She is also concerned with the high amounts of educational loan debt affecting young people, and with immigration reform.

Similarly, Sandy Wu, 21, is contributing to Rock the Vote by calling voters and reminding them to vote. For Wu, it is important that we understand power in numbers, saying that, "An individual can’t implement a policy on their own."

If young women go out in large numbers during Virginia’s gubernatorial election, we could see a major change in the political future of the state. Many claim that young voters are going to turn Virginia from a swing state to a blue state.

Politics have always been painted as men’s work, but for young women like myself, it is the only way to show that we have a say in policies that affect our lives. Beyond elections, our votes solidify our stand.

As Smith said, "We are not stepping down, we are stepping up!"