Last Year We Marched. This Year We Vote

This weekend, the Women's March launches their "Power to the Polls" initiative, kicking off a national voter registration and mobilization tour that targets swing states and aims to put more progressive politicians in office.

by Leila Ettachfini
Jan 19 2018, 6:30pm

Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz

One year ago, nearly 500,000 people descended on Washington DC to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump, speak out against the sexist rhetoric used by his campaign, and advocate for the rights of women and marginalized groups across the country. That same day, Women’s March events around the globe collectively mobilized an estimated three to five million people all marching for the same cause. January 21, 2017 went down in history as the largest day of protest America had ever seen.

The event was, in many ways, a catalyst for an uprising of a modern women’s resistance movement, one that has seen Planned Parenthood donations increase by 1,000 percent; TIME Magazine declare a group of women their Person of the Year; an anti-sexual harassment #metoo campaign dominate headlines and hold powerful men accountable; and more women filing for public office than ever before. That is, the number of women running for federal and statewide office increased from 391 in 2016 to over 600 women on the 2018 ballot so far.

When planning the original march, the organizers couldn't have anticipated the following movement that would unfold. “When we were organizing the Women's March on Washington, we certainly didn't have an idea that it would become an organization afterwards—that it would become something that people wanted to memorialize as an anniversary,” says Cassady Fendlay, Head of Communications at the Women’s March.

As the one year anniversary of the monumental march approached, it became clear that people wanted to not only memorialize the event, but re-envision it with goals that consider both our current political climate one year into the Trump administration and the impending 2018 midterm elections—which some say could change the course of American politics far beyond the current presidency.

With that in mind, organizers at the Women’s March decided they needed to do more than march this year. While they’ll still be holding marches on the one year anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington, the events will focus on tangible action as opposed to social and cultural uprising. They’re turning their attention to the 2018 elections in an initiative called “Power to the Polls” with the goal of ensuring that women are eligible, informed, and proactive voters both at the local and federal level this year.

“Our strategy at the Women's March was essentially two pronged,” says Fendlay. “We know we need massive electoral change, we know we need engagement at the voting level, but also candidates for office who are running on the kind of truly progressive values that we put forward with the Women's March.”

“Voting is the power that we have to change the system within the system. It's an important power to exercise.”

Rather than center the action in DC, organizers have chosen to organize their main event in Las Vegas this year, where they will launch the Power to the Polls initiative. The organization chose Nevada, a swing state, due to both its battleground status in this year’s election—all four of its House seats and much of its state government is up for election—and the fact that Nevada already has impressive female representation in its congressional delegation in comparison to the rest of the country. Fendlay says the organization has been working closely with local organizers to minimize barriers to voting for Nevadans and ensure that they’ll show up on election day. This method will be modeled across the country as Women’s March embarks on a national voter registration tour that will focus on swing states throughout the year following their kickstart in Vegas.

This weekend, in honor of the Women’s March’s one year anniversary and the launch of its “Power to the Polls” initiative, Broadly is highlighting progressive women and nonbinary candidates on the 2018 ballot, many of whom were inspired to run because of the events last year and who will be making history if they win. From the candidate who would be the first Muslim woman in Congress, to the woman who would be the nation’s first Native American governor of any gender, we asked these women why they felt especially inclined to run at this political moment and how they plan to help their constituents and fight for equality if elected come November.