2018 U.S. Women’s Marches Focus on Midterm Elections, Call for Women to Vote and Run for Office

Millions of women took to the streets in cities across the U.S. and around the world over the weekend — exactly a year after the 2017 Women’s March in protest of the newly elected President Donald Trump — to encourage more women to register to vote as well as run for elected office. The push for greater political involvement by women of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and religious faiths comes as midterm elections approach in November.

Speakers at demonstrations across the country touted a “power-to-the-polls” theme for the 2018 events. On Saturday in downtown Chicago, billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer urged a large crowd to oust the current Republican majority. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — both democrats — urged women to run for political office. On Sunday, rally leaders in Las Vegas set a goal of registering one million new voters, with volunteers approaching demonstrators outside Sam Boyd Stadium; they were successful in registering about 10,000 people — roughly half of all attendees — according to The Associated Press.

College students also played an active role in many of the marches, often motivated by their frustration with Trump’s actions during his first year in office, reports X Golden Gate Press.

Many women expressed feeling empowered by the more action-based focus of this year’s events. Eva Burch, a local rally organizer in Phoenix, Ariz., told USA Today that last year’s march was a protest, while this year’s is a “movement.” Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March organization, added that women are still outraged by the Trump administration, just as they were last year; however, they see how his rhetoric is translating into policy, which is propelling them to take more concrete action.

Other women said they chose not to participate in the weekend’s events because they felt they were too focused on only electing Democrats and were not inclusive enough of women of color. Mallory referenced such frustrations when she told a crowd at Sunday’s Las Vegas rally not to “[say] that you’re with us, and [then be] nowhere to be found when black people ask you to show up in the streets to defend our lives.” She urged attendees to show up where it counts: at the polls, and specifically mentioned the upcoming midterm elections.

Mallory’s call to action is equally applicable to college students, who have some of the lowest voter turnout rates. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 21.3 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Bridget Childs, an environmental engineering major at Cornell University, told X Golden Gate Press that she attributes this lack of participation in part to the large number of college students who are absentee voters, which requires that they be more proactive and organized. Sarah Lindborg, a student at Sonoma State University who attended the march in San Francisco, also cited a lack of awareness about voting opportunities among college students.

These issues and more are exactly what the organizers of the 2018 Women’s March are hoping to address. Despite continued anger at Trump, this year’s event was ultimately less about venting frustration and more about taking political action. As Burch told USA Today, “Last year, we discovered how much energy was waiting and willing to be harnessed in the community. This year, we have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact in 2018 elections.”

Moving forward, Mallory emphasized that unity does not require uniformity, given the breadth of the movement’s goals. In an interview with USA Today, she expressed a desire for different organizations and individuals to advance women’s rights in their own way, while working together to complement each other.