Closing The Gap

'The 19th amendment means everything': 5 first-time voters on 100 years of women's suffrage and the 2020 election

Alliyah Logan, Eugenie Park and Rebecca Fairweather.

August 18 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment being ratified, granting women the right to vote in the United States. 

Though this anniversary is a celebrated milestone in American history, the reality is that not all women were able to immediately exercise their right to vote as racial discrimination kept Black women, and Black Americans in general, from voting. In fact, it wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 45 years after the 19th amendment was passed, that the federal government made it illegal to disenfranchise a person based on race. 

As America continues to deal with a global pandemic, as well as racial unrest in the country, exercising the right to vote in the 2020 election has never been more important, though ongoing acts of voter suppression still deny many people their right to vote today.

CNBC Make It caught up with five young women who will be voting for the first time in the 2020 election, to get their insight on what the 19th amendment means to them, why it's important for them to make their voice heard at the 2020 polls and the social and political issues they've been paying close attention to this year. 

Alliyah Logan, 18

Alliyah Logan, 18-year-old youth advocate from Bronx, New York.
Photo credit: Alliyah Logan

Alliyah Logan is a Jamaican-American youth advocate from Bronx, New York who served as a former teen advisor for Girl Up, an organization founded by the United Nations Foundation to support the leadership development of young women. This fall, she will be a freshman at Smith College in Massachusetts. 

What does the 19th amendment mean to you and how important is it for you to exercise your right to vote in the 2020 election?

This is such an important election, especially for women, and it's important for everyone to be fully engaged.

For me, when I think about the 19th amendment, I think about the foundation of women's rights and some sort of equality in America. And the reason why I say foundation is because there's a lot of work that needs to be done. So when I think about 100 years ago and the environment of that time, I wouldn't have been able to be as accepted in the movement as I am today. And I think it's because [the suffrage movement] was viewed as being predominantly White.

When you look at it, White women were really primarily only advocating for voting rights, whereas Black women, Native American women, [Hispanic] women and other groups of women of color were advocating for so many other things like racial justice and class justice. So for me, looking back 100 years, I saw that there was just one narrative of stories that were valued at that time. And now, 100 years later, we're seeing that there are still so many more measures that need to be done to ensure that we're not only advocating for the voting rights of women, but also using that energy to advocate for other issues that women of color face, especially Black women, when looking at racial injustice and class injustice.

 What are some of the issues you're fighting for and policies you're paying close attention to when voting in this election?

I think for me, the first thing is racial justice. I think even if you look at this summer in general in terms of the George Floyd protest, it's extremely important that our nominees are pushing for racial justice in America because we need national leadership who can make sure our voices are heard in policy decisions. And, we need national leadership supporting us and saying that Black people deserve human rights and human decency when it comes to interacting with police and many other things.

Another very important issue for me is health care. When looking at the impact of Covid-19 we see how it impacted all people in general, but it more heavily impacted the Black community and Native American community just because of systematic oppression. So for me, establishing a universal health plan that all people can have access to is very important.

Also, education is important and making sure that young people from K- 12 have access to equitable education that is free of harm and is free of policing in schools. I think young people need to be in environments that are safe and empowering and that really uplift their spirits and I don't think the current education system does that.

Lastly, there are a lot of people in America living in areas that are considered food deserts or have food insecurity and this is not an issue that a lot of people speak on because a lot of people don't recognize how inherently violent it is to not have access to healthy foods. This is a very important issue that we need national leadership on and it's from the impact of years of red lining and years or systematic racism that made people move into these communities that are impacted by poverty.

Rebecca Fairweather, 18

Rebecca Fairweather, rising freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Photo credit: Rebecca Fairweather

Rebecca Fairweather is an 18-year-old Latina activist from Queens, New York who plans to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall. She's also a former teen advisor for Girl Up. 

What does the 19th amendment mean to you and how important is it for you to exercise your right to vote in the 2020 election?

The 19th amendment has always been incredibly important to me. I remember first learning about the 19th amendment in middle school and it's kind of mind boggling to me that that happened a hundred years ago and we're still continuing to fight for equality today.

As an 18-year-old, it kind of feels a little weird to be voting on this anniversary in a time where so many injustices are still being brought to light every single day. But, I'm voting on the 100th anniversary knowing that my generation is stepping into the voting booth and that's so powerful to me. I know that the future will be in good hands because of it.

What are some of the issues you're fighting for and policies you're paying close attention to when voting in this election?

I've been cultivating a list for years now and definitely climate change is a big thing for me. I think it should be acknowledged regardless of your political party because it is real and it is happening and we need to get a hold of it quickly. Something that's also very important to me is women's rights and women's access to healthcare. As a woman who suffers from endometriosis, birth control and reproductive healthcare are so important to me and knowing that it could be taken away is so scary.

Amore' Daniels, 19

Amore' Daniels, 19-year-old student at Spelman College.
One time use: Amore' Daniels

Amore' Daniels is a 19-year-old computer science major at Spelman College who will be voting for the first time this year in Georgia. 

What does the 19th amendment mean to you and how important is it for you to exercise your right to vote in the 2020 election?

The 19th amendment is very important and I think it's important for me to exercise my voice and my right to vote because historically [Black people] didn't always have that opportunity.

What are some of the issues you're fighting for and policies you're paying close attention to when voting in this election?

When it comes to this election there are several issues that I'm considering, including women's rights. Although this is the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, women are still fighting for freedom and equality in terms of human rights and equal pay. Another issue I'm paying attention to is police brutality. I know that the system of policing was founded upon racist ideologies and we can see some of that in the way that police enforcement operates today. I would say another issue I'm focused on is reparations. I would like to think that the right candidate would understand that descendants of those who built this country simply don't want an apology for what has happened in the past, but we would like acknowledgement from the country that allows us to move forward and have success and progress as a community.

Denisse Alvarado, 19

Denisse Alvarado, 19-year-old student at Oregon State University.
Photo credit: Denisse Alvarado

Denisse Alvarado is a rising sophomore at Oregon State University who is majoring in computer science with a minor in business. 

What does the 19th amendment mean to you and how important is it for you to exercise your right to vote in the 2020 election?

I think the 19th amendment is really important and I think women, just as much as everyone else, need to be able to exercise their voice by voting. And you know, voting is the way we use our voice to change the policies that are affecting us. Though we are not certain where we will be in the future, it is a guarantee that whoever is elected into office will make choices and implement policies that will impact our lives. So, we need to speak up and have a say, especially in this upcoming election, because at the end of the day, if you're not voting for your own interests and standing up for your own beliefs then who will.

What are some of the issues you're fighting for and policies you're paying close attention to when voting in this election?

The issues that are really important to me are gender-based violence, workplace equality and educational equity. So, the sexual abuse and human trafficking that has been happening and the gender-based violence that has been manifesting in various ways in the lives of women around the world is a really important issue and I feel like we need to focus [more] on it. Workplace equality is also important. I read a report the other day that for every 100 men promoted to management, only 72 women were promoted and that number is even lower for women of color and Latinas like myself. I believe that female representation at senior level roles and in senior leadership needs to increase. And though we have seen a little bit of change, I still think that we have so much left to do and so much more we need to do to break these glass ceilings. Also, educational equity is so important because education plays a major role in providing work opportunities and I feel like from an early age boys and girls are stereotyped by teachers and educated according to their gender-based attributes.

Eugenie Park, 18

Eugenie Park, rising freshman at Wellesley College.
Photo credit: Eugenie Park

Eugenie Park is a former Girl Up teen advisor who will be a freshman at Wellesley College this fall. 

What does the 19th amendment mean to you and how important is it for you to exercise your right to vote in the 2020 election?

The 19th amendment means everything to me in terms of being able to express my political opinions and actually have them make an objective difference. I actually voted in my state's primary on August 4th since I live in Washington state. Although it wasn't a federal election, it was definitely a huge turning point for me and I felt on top of the world being able to actually make an objective difference in the legal system.

Before I voted I did kind of dabble in political activism where I could, but I never felt like I was doing as much as I wanted to because I never got to actually take part in the democracy in terms of being able to cast a vote. So being able to do that for the first time is everything for me.

What are some of the issues you're fighting for and policies you're paying close attention to when voting in this election?

There's a couple of issues that have always been of particular importance to me. The first one is how political candidates are setting up support systems for small businesses, especially family businesses. My dad actually runs a small business himself and so I have a really personal connection to the struggles he's been through in our own economy and how our government has succeeded or has failed to support him in that way. Another big issue for me is education policy. I want to know how politicians are planning to revise our K- 12 education system because the disparities in our elementary, middle and high schools across the country are extremely unacceptable in my opinion.

Something else that has also become more on the forefront of my mind is how different politicians are approaching racial equity through their policies, especially in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. I'm looking at how politicians are responding to that and what kind of policies are cropping up from these incidents.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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