Ai-jen Poo, Alicia Garza & Cecile Richards on the Women’s Vote

Photo credit: Courtesy Supermajority From Harper’s BAZAAR Supermajority wants to mobilize as many women as…

Ai-jen Poo, Alicia Garza & Cecile Richards on the Women’s Vote
Photo credit: Courtesy Supermajority
Photo credit: Courtesy Supermajority

From Harper’s BAZAAR

Supermajority wants to mobilize as many women as possible to vote in the 2020 presidential election. That’s why tomorrow, the platform for women’s activism is kicking off a 38-day national, woman-to-woman voter engagement operation to get the voting body prepared to cast their ballots and organize their communities to do the same. The initiative commences Saturday with the virtual live conference Supercharge: Women All In, which will feature appearances from celebrities, activists, and politicians, including vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Representative Ayanna Pressley, as well as Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and many more.

“We started Supermajority a little over a year ago, but a major focus was the 2020 election, and we knew from being on the road that women really wanted to understand how they could impact the elections, how they could get more women to vote,” says former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who leads Supermajority with Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza and National Domestic Workers Alliance cofounder Ai-jen Poo. “So, Supercharge: Women All In is a virtual convention to celebrate, laugh, dance, hear music, hear inspiring speakers, and then commit to do the work we need to do to have the largest turnout of women on November 3rd possible.”

By focusing on women, Supermajority is tapping into a powerful voting bloc with potent power to make change—if they participate. Reports show that more women than men have turned out to vote in every U.S. election since 1964. And in regard to activism, research has shown that protest movements are more successful if women are involved. “Women are one of the most powerful forces behind campaigns,” Garza tells “We are fundraising, we are donating, we are volunteering for campaigns, and the issues that women care about are the issues that all Americans care about.”

With the election taking place in the middle of a global pandemic, more voters are opting for mail-in ballots, early voting, drop-off voting, and other alternatives over physically going to the polls. “One thing we recognized months ago is that the barriers to voting for women are always more severe, either because they’re working two jobs or taking care of kids, and, of course, the pandemic has added another layer of uncertainty,” Richards says.

Supermajority is helping citizens stay informed with its useful voter checklist, which allows women to check their registration status, guides them through the process of voting, and gives them a way to easily share information with friends and family. “A big belief we have is that the most persuasive person to talk to a woman is another woman that she knows or that is perhaps living in the same experience that she is right now,” Richards adds. “So a big part of the work that we’re doing now is women texting each other, phone banking each other, writing letters to each other to make sure that every woman feels like she’s got a connection and she’s got a way to find out how to vote safely and to make sure that her vote is counted.”

“Women are very well networked, and we especially focus on young women and women of color, and the power of community there and power of influence, that young women and women of color are influencers in their networks,” Poo says.

Supermajority also wants to ensure that women feel empowered to stay engaged beyond Election Day, which is why it was established in the first place. “The organizing doesn’t stop,” Poo tells us. “It enters into a new phase and the cycle continues, and that is how progress is made and how movements of organized women have driven progress throughout history. And I think we’re really mobilized to take that work to another level from now on.”

Below, more from Richards, Garza, and Poo about Supercharge and galvanizing women to vote in the 2020 election.

Why the focus on the female vote? How would you describe the strength and importance of this body?

Alicia Garza: As we’re in the midst of a deeply mismanaged pandemic that lacked the leadership that was necessary, as we enter into an election cycle where literally millions of women face the possibility of not being able to cast their vote because of voter suppression, and also recently because of racial terror, I think women are not only fired up, but we’re also getting very clear messages that the issues that are important to us are not important to the current leadership of this country.

What we know is that women are going to be a decisive force in this election cycle. And, yes, it’s about numbers, but it’s also about the state of the country. And I think when you look at social movements throughout history, women have been at the forefront, and given that there’s been no better time for a social movement than right now, I think that we’re seeing some of the same trends.

Women are at the forefront of fighting for racial equality, fighting for a clear resolution to this mismanaged pandemic, and women are at the center of the fight to secure and to restore our democracy. And I believe that that’s what we’re going to be seeing in November, and Supercharge is really an opportunity to boost our power. So many women across the country have been working with us over the last year, learning, connecting with their friends and their families, and getting folks involved up until this point. So this is our opportunity to kick it into gear and to really make all that work matter.

Supermajority recently released research about what women want to see in a leader after this election, and that included a solid response to the pandemic, combating systemic racism, protecting the Affordable Care Act, and raising minimum wage. What did you make of these findings?

Ai-jen Poo: I think that women overwhelmingly said that they want to address the COVID crisis, they want to address systemic racism, and they want to address gender inequality, and that we knew. And women are also incredibly practical. They have clear ideas, and they know that there are clear solutions to these problems, and that the Trump administration has just failed them time and time again.

I don’t think there were any real surprises there in terms of the priorities, but more a reminder of exactly what’s at stake for women and that we actually share a tremendous amount in terms of concerns and goals for our families and for our country. Those priorities and these values are going to be the foundation for the coalition, the winning women’s coalition.

Cecile Richards: I think one of the important things to underscore is that, across the board, the demand from women that this country and that our leaders address systemic racism and inequality was deep and profound. We just can’t lose sight of that. I think what women are saying on the issues of race, and certainly on the economy and health care, is that it’s not going to be good enough to go back to the way things were, because the way things were wasn’t good. And this is, to me, one of the really powerful parts of this research, was that commitment and the support for the movement for Black lives and really understanding that these are not isolated incidents—this is a systemic problem that we have to address.

AP: Just to underscore that last point on the minimum wage question as a priority, coming into the COVID crisis, two-thirds of all minimum-wage jobs were held by women and, disproportionately, Black and Brown women. So raising the minimum wage is clearly going to be a priority. And then when we look at who’s working in our essential sectors right now, it’s disproportionately women and people of color. The people who have kept us safe and put everything on the line for us and our safety moving through this crisis have been women and people of color. And so the idea that we’d be addressing both systemic racism and the economy, I think, makes a lot of sense here.

AG: The importance of this research is really just outlining that women are not confused about what kind of country we want see. And after four years of an administration that has openly bragged about disrespecting women, harassing women, that has rolled back protections for women and our family, this research I think really shows the clarity that women voters—across race, across age, across demographics—have about the kind of country that we want to see. And the type of country that women want is a country where our lives are valued and respected, where we’re safe, where we’re able to work, live, and play in dignified ways, and, frankly, where we’re able to leave a better future for our children and for our families.

As you move forward with these campaigns, how do you ensure that the movement is truly intersectional for women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, women with disabilities? How do you make sure that their stories and voices are also involved and not sidelined?

AG: I think the big thing is that, for so many women across the country, intersectionality is not just a theory, it’s the way in which we live our lives. The majority of women who vote are women with disabilities and women with families, women who are caretaking and caregiving and receiving care, women who are racially and ethnically diverse. What’s so important about this community is that we’re intentional about bringing together a multiracial, multi-issue constituency that is mobilized and supercharged to really make change.

The way that we do that is by building relationships, by tapping into our networks and connecting our networks together, and by finding common ground. That’s what our research has shown, that’s what Supermajority has been building over the last year. Even the conversations that we’ve been having with our community have really been geared toward this moment. We’ve been talking about race and racism and racial inequality and how it relates to gender inequality and how it relates to also the inequalities that too many of us are facing every single day.

The big thing here to make sure that we highlight is that mostly what women want to see in relationship to intersectionality is progress. They want to see progress on our issues, we want to see people who look like us reflected in positions of leadership, and we really want to make sure that we have champions at every level of office. Part of what feels so exciting to me about Supercharge in this moment is that it’s an opportunity to put intersectionality into practice, and we’ve been practicing for at least the last year.

AP: What intersectionality is is basically a framework to help us understand all the ways that hierarchies of power shape our world, and in order to build the power necessary to build a world where everyone can be powerful.

If there’s anything that we’re clear about at Supermajority, it’s power; that it is going to require a very intentional power-building strategy that is really reflective of who women are and pain points that women are feeling, all the ways in which women experience inequality and injustice actually getting addressed by our elected leaders.

Based on your personal experiences and what you’ve been hearing from the other women you’ve been working with as you’ve been organizing, how does this election feel different from the one four years ago?

AP: This election feels existential in that just the very foundation of our democracy and our ability to move toward the kind of policies and solutions, and actually address the challenges facing this country head-on are really at stake. Our democracy itself and the norms, the institutions, the foundation of our democracy are being threatened by voter suppression and disinformation, and all kinds of ways of suppressing the vote and people’s voices.

And the only antidote to that is for people to engage and to mobilize in unprecedented numbers, and we feel a lot of energy in communities and a lot of clarity among women about what’s at stake. People know that our lives and our livelihoods are on the ballot. Black women and women of color have always shown up to vote in disproportionate numbers and to really hold down our democracy, and I think just the awareness about how important that is is just reverberating through every community of women that we talk to.

The existential nature of the threat and the potential opportunity ahead of us to actually realize the policy and politics of our values is profoundly different than anything I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

CR: What has been interesting to me is that obviously there have been many women who, the day after the last election, were getting ready for this one. And we’ve seen that. We saw it as women organized immediately to defend the Affordable Care Act and the attack on Planned Parenthood right off the bat. Then, women attorneys rushed to the border, on the Muslim ban. Women led by Care in Action and others were the truth tellers about the horrific policy of family separation, and on and on and on, on school reopening, on gun reform, on racial justice.

To me, the thing that’s different this time is women are not at all standing down. They’re not stepping aside. They’re claiming their leadership in this country, and they are the agents of change. I think it’s somewhat exemplified by the fact that Kamala Harris is on the ballot, and to have the first Black woman and Indian-American woman to be nominated by the Democratic Party to be vice president says volumes that this is our moment.

And the other thing that’s different about this election, and I’ve seen this certainly since the nomination of Kamala, is that a lot of folks feel like when Hillary Clinton was nominated, that the double standard that she experienced in that election is one that we will never, never let happen again—at least, not without a fight. And it has been really encouraging to see. I feel like that women, and other people, are supporting Kamala Harris, they’re calling out racist and sexist attacks, because we learned our lesson, perhaps painfully. Well, definitely painfully. And it is exciting to see women supporting a woman headed to the executive branch, headed to be vice president. That time has come.

AG: In 2016, for so many people, it felt like democracy was assured. I think we heard a lot of commentary about there being a lot of assumptions, that what we were going to have was the first woman to ever serve in the role of president in the history of this country. I agree with both Cecile and Ai-jen. I think this time around, women are going into this cycle much clearer and with a lot less assumptions, that what is assured to us is being able to make history. But I think that what that has actually done is motivated women to work harder, to work smarter, to really address some of the issues that have come between us, and to make sure that we are going to deliver a resounding mandate in relationship to the direction that we want this country to go in.

We’ve seen over the last four years what another four years with this administration will look like, whereas in 2016 we just had no idea. I think there were inklings, but certainly not the experience. Now, we have the experience of it. What is different, quite frankly, about this cycle is that in 2016, fascism was not on the ballot. In 2020, it 100 percent is, and I think women are clear about that.

What do you tell the person who still, at this moment, doesn’t feel moved to cast a vote? Is there anything you can say to change their mind?

AP: If they don’t want to vote for themselves, vote for the person who can’t. Vote for the undocumented who is living in constant fear of separation from her family. Vote for the child who is in immigrant detention right now. Vote for the person who is dying of COVID-19. There are so many people for whom this is not a choice, and those people need other people to stand up and to show up in the democratic process.

AG: Congressman John Lewis used to say, to those of us who knew him, that if you don’t use your vote, it will be taken away. And that couldn’t be a more poignant statement than right now. What we are seeing across the country are concerted, deliberate, and mean-spirited efforts to block people from being able to make the most basic decisions over our own lives. It’s blocking people from being able to ensure that resources are going to the right places. And it is actually designed to take away people’s right to participate and weigh in on the decisions that are being made about us without us.

That’s actually a key cornerstone of this administration. If they have their way, nobody else who is not powerful and not white and not male will be able to make any kind of decision about what happens to us or our families or the people we love. Even with all the frustration and angst about the ways in which politics have not been working for our communities, the fact of the matter is the opportunity to be able to weigh in on your own life is not actually guaranteed. And there’s no administration under which we’ve seen that clearer than under the administration that we’re in right now.

I don’t like to gaslight people and say, “Well, how could you feel that way?” I totally get it, and, at the same time, we’re watching in real time a leader and his crew that are actually fulfilling the warning that Congressman Lewis has given to us for so many years. That would be my offering to people who are unsure or not convinced.

Quite frankly, my mom used to say, “Whatever you leave on the table, somebody else will eat.” We’ve been seeing for the last four years, at least, that other people have been eating off of our hard work, and frankly, rolling back everything that we and our parents and our grandparents have fought so hard for. I think we have a mandate to not let that happen.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

What are your voting plans for November?

AG: My family and I have been talking for a while now, trying to sort through how we’re going to be able to vote and making plans with and for each other. I’m a mail-in voter. I’ve been an absentee voter for a long time, because I’m always on the move, so I have a plan to vote. And my notice for my ballot actually just came, so I’m excited about that. Most of what I’m spending my time on now is making sure that my friends and my family know how they can vote too.

So that’s how I plan to do it. I’m thinking that it could be cool to do a little bit of a voting party, put on some good music, go through our ballots together, and just make sure that everything is sealed and prepared at least a week earlier than it might’ve been the last time around.

CR: Like Alicia, I’ve always been an absentee voter. I’m in New York, I’m in the system. I’m going to be voting, and then spending every waking moment making sure that any woman in this country can find out if she’s registered, how she can vote, and make sure she gets her ballot in.

AP: I sent in my request for my vote-by-mail ballot weeks ago, so I’m waiting for that to come in and getting all my friends to sign up at the Supermajority voting center to make sure that they double-check that they’re registered and know all their choices for voting.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Supermajority’s three-hour Day of Action livestream event begins tomorrow, September 26, at 2 p.m. ET. Tune in via Supermajority’s Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube page, or online at

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