PUNTA GORDA — With women’s health and safety issues stalled by congressional gridlock, and measures to nullify Obamacare and ban public funds for abortions to be cast into the Florida constitution, there’s plenty of important issues to be decided on the Nov. 6 ballot.
That’s why it’s important to vote, according to leaders of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte chapter of the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters of Charlotte County.
About 50 members of the organizations joined forces here Saturday to conduct a get-out-the-vote walk. Carrying signs and wearing red, white and blue sashes, the women walked from Fishermen’s Village to Laishley Park. They then gathered to hear speakers explain the issues while enjoying coffee and pastries at the Punta Gorda Woman’s Club.
“Especially for women, this is an important election,” said Punta Gorda Isles resident Diane Lowy. “There are a lot of amendments, and some of them are going to affect us.”
She mentioned a concern that Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has said he is “unapologetically pro-life,” will work to reverse abortion rights.
“Whether he’s right or wrong, I feel this issue is important to women,” Lowy said.
The walk was organized under a campaign by the national AAUW, said Carolyn Brox, president of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte chapter. The local chapter also works to sponsor some four scholarships per year for women returning to college.
Excitement over the election is building, “especially considering these economic times,” Brox added.
For Teresa Jenkins, a former league president, the walk was especially pertinent, considering the Republican-controlled Legislature’s attempt to limit the vote of minority groups through a voter-registration-fraud protection act. She pointed out the act bars early voting on the Sunday before the election, a traditional day for African-American churches that organize “souls to polls” drives.
“We’re not going to let them be successful,” Jenkins said. “Despite what the governor and the Republican Party are trying to do, we are going to tell everybody how easy it is to vote.”
“I’m 95 and I’ve been voting since I was 21,” said lifelong Democrat Helen Wrobbel. “My mother would have killed me if I didn’t vote,” she added.
Ingrid Jimenez, president of the county league, shares Wrobbel’s appreciation for voting rights. Jimenez told the group she’ll never forget how, each election day, her mother would proudly display her thumb, which had been inked blue after voting, back in the Dominican Republic during the 1950s.
University women’s association president Cheryl Temple presented a report on how her group rates the congressional voting records of area members. The issues ranged from public school entitlements to college loans, and from fairness in taxation to paycheck fairness.
Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior senator, scored 90 points, while junior Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, earned zero, she said.
Temple also recalled how Republicans in the U.S. House “abandoned” stimulus legislation and instead cut Medicaid and a bill to spend $30 billion hiring teachers.
“The AAUW continues to be disappointed that Congress seems to have left the field at halftime,” she added.
Martha Hoover, league vice president, reviewed Florida’s proposed constitutional amendments. One would provide an additional homestead exemption for new residents.
“Most of these amendments sound really good and appealing, but, be aware, the counties would take the hit,” she said.