Montana Women Vote (MWV) works statewide to engage low-income women in the democratic process as informed voters, policy advocates, and community leaders. MWV works with low-income women and families, folks in the LGBTQ community, Native women, and their allies, to fight for health care access, reproductive rights, economic justice, and violence prevention.
Montana Women Vote accomplishes our goals through voter engagement, leadership development, and policy advocacy. Voter engagement is more than just voting. It means getting women registered and giving them tools to head into the voting booth with confidence. From info about ballot initiatives to the MWV voter guide outlining where candidates stand on the issues that impact women and families, MWV works to show how decisions by elected officials directly affect women’s lives.
After Election Day, MWV continues to provide issue education about the key policy discussions. From “What’s at stake with the state budget,” to “What health care reform means for women,” MWV breaks it down and creates opportunities for women, many of whom are directly affected by the policy decisions, to be policy advocates and have their voices and perspectives heard in the halls of power.
Leadership development is woven throughout our work. We’re training volunteers to become volunteer leaders, supporting a single mom in writing her first letter to the editor, and providing scholarships to our annual Women’s Policy Leadership Institute (WPLI). By removing barriers, women who have historically not been engaged can learn and apply policy advocacy skills.
The founding organizations created MWV in 2000 in response to the profound lack of support and attention by elected officials for women’s, particularly low-income women’s, concerns. The coalition realized the low-income women they served had a very low voter turnout rate (30-40 percent — about half of Montana’s average turnout). This low turnout meant low-income women had little say in electing their representatives and in turn, elected officials felt little accountability to support issues important to them.
Apathy is not the root of this situation. Rather, we find women do not participate because they have not yet connected how policy affects their daily lives; they lack the information they need to feel like informed voters or policy advocates; they do not feel welcome to participate; and/or they face logistical challenges in getting to the polls. By registering, educating and mobilizing unlikely Montana women voters into a formidable voting block that supports real progressive policy change, Montana Women Vote helps empower women to make positive change in their communities and our state.
Over the past several election cycles Montana Women Vote has registered over 12,500 unlikely voters, a large majority being low-income women, and achieved a 77% turnout rate. MWV has distributed voter guides informing of candidates positions and ballot initiatives that impact low-income women to over 30,000 Montanans. Montana Women Vote also develops comprehensive legislative policy agendas and carries the energy of this engaged voting block into the state legislature to advance policies supporting women and families in the areas of economic security, reproductive health care, domestic violence and sexual assault, health care, human rights, and environmental health.