Energized by the outrage that resulted from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination and confirmation in recent weeks, the Women's March Chicago will hold a rally and literal "march to the polls" on Saturday, with marchers walking to early voting sites to cast their ballots in the midterm elections.
The 2018 March to the Polls will follow Chicago's 300,000-strong Women's March on January 20, 2018, offering resources and information to first-time voters as well as musical guests and speakers including Heather Booth, founder of the pre-Roe v. Wade underground abortion collective Jane.
— Chicago Votes Action Fund (@ChicagoVotes) October 12, 2018
Offering a model to other communities nationwide, organizers say the event aims to mobilize voters in Chicago and all over the country to go to the polls in record numbers on November 6—and before if early voting is available to them—to fight the Republican Party's anti-woman, anti-immigration, and anti-healthcare agenda.
"The stakes are sky-high this November," Women's March Chicago board president Jessica Scheller said in a statement announcing the event last month. "We need every single woman—from first time voters to great-grandmothers—along with every single ally to take to the streets and converge on the polls. We have been practicing for months. Now it's time to channel our outrage and energy and truly make our voices heard through our votes in greater numbers than ever before."
Before rallying in Chicago's Grant Park, newly registered voters will be invited to "mingle with elected officials, community leaders and others" at a "First Time Voter Experience" area hosted by the grassroots group Chicago Votes.
"The purpose is to start the midterm elections in Illinois the best way we possibly can, by celebrating first-time voters and making sure they're all eligible to get registered and cast a ballot in the upcoming election cycle," Rudy Garrett, a Women’s March Chicago board member and the co-deputy director of Chicago Votes, told WTTW on Thursday.
"The stakes are sky-high this November. We need every single woman—from first time voters to great-grandmothers—along with every single ally to take to the streets and converge on the polls." —Jessica Scheller, Women's March Chicago
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Attendees will later proceed to early voting sites in downtown Chicago.
The March to the Polls comes amid reports that, with many galvanized by the Women's March in 2017, women are running for office in record numbers this year. A record-setting 256 women won primary races this year, qualifying for general elections next month. The vast majority are Democrats, and the number of women of color who are running this year is up 75 percent from just six years ago.
The event also comes at the end of a year in which issues affecting women were at the forefront of political news—from states' efforts to roll back reproductive rights to the #MeToo movement and the Republican Party's support for multiple powerful men who were credibly accused of sexual assault and abuse, including Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Kavanaugh, and President Donald Trump.
"This last year we saw an undeniable shift in how we tolerate sexual harassment and how we talk about it," Anna Eskamani, a Democrat running for a seat in Florida's State House, told Rewire News this summer. "These lived experiences fueled my decision to run for office and serve as my own moral compass. The 2016 election inspired me to run for office, but it was the Women's March in 2017 that further solidified my aspirations to do this work, and it was the #MeToo movement that reminded me that it's so important that we not only run but that we win."
With Chicago's March to the Polls, the Women's March aims to drive more voters to the polls across the country.
"You see this movement growing nationwide, and it's only getting bigger," Garrett told WTTW. "It's a culmination of the last two marches with one primary goal: making sure every single voice is heard at the ballot box."