According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy
Research, Michigan women are the second-most politically active
women in the United States. The study, released on earlier this
month, was based on women’s voter registration and turnout
and the number of women elected to office, among others things.
The composite score for women’s political participation in
Michigan also rose from a C+ to a B since the study was last
conducted in 2002.
“The big change of getting that composite score and being
second in the country is because of women in office. Having
Jennifer Granholm as our governor helped us considerably, and so
did having a female state senator (Debbie Stabenow),” said
Anne Doyle, the communications council for the Nokomis Foundation,
which funded the report.
Women in Michigan are 13th in voter registration and 11th in
voter turnout throughout the nation.
Women outnumbered men at the polls in the last presidential
election by more than 200,000 voters, Doyle said. “The
women’s vote will determine the electoral vote in this
election if they turn out in the numbers they have consistently in
the past,” she added.
Some say the more prominent issues in this year’s election
will influence women’s participation at the polls.
“Women have been very involved in the campaign this
year,” said Allison Jacobs, chair of College Republicans.
“I think Bush’s stance on partial-birth abortions and
equality really hits home for a lot of women. A lot of women have
concerns with child care and health insurance. Bush has strong Head
Start programs, and I think women are going to see that.”
Others noted the possibility of next term’s president
naming a new Supreme Court justice, potentially changing the
political make-up of the current court.
“I think that women will absolutely make the difference in
this election with all that’s at stake, especially
considering the Supreme Court,” said Jenny Nathan, vice
president of the Michigan Student Assembly.
“I think it’s going to be really crucial that we
elect a president that’s going to appoint justices that will
continue to support our rights,” added Nathan, who is also
the former chair of the College Democrats.
However, not all numbers for women’s participation are as
encouraging. According to Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, the
number of female county commissioners shrank for the third
successive election in 2002. The total of women county
commissioners in Michigan is 133, which is as low as it’s
been at any time in the past decade.
“There’s not such great news on the horizon in the
state House,” said Jean Doss, a senior associate lobbyist at
Capital Services, a multi-client lobbying firm, several of whose
clients are interested in the political status of women in
Michigan. “We expect that the best-case scenario is 21 women
in the 2005/2006 legislature section, and worst-case scenario is 16
women. Right now there are 24 women in the state House, and even
that is low.”
The political participation study is part of a larger study
called “The Status of Women in Michigan,” which will be
released in mid-November. The full report is an in-depth study that
shows how Michigan women are doing compared to women in all other
states in the areas of employment and earnings, health and
well-being, social and economic autonomy, political participation
and reproductive rights. The status of women is also compared to
men in several of these categories.
It will be the first time in eight years that this type of study
has been conducted.