WSW: Counting Women's Ballots

Aug 25, 2016

Women's Suffrage Headquarters in Cleveland
Credit Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

University of Notre Dame Political Science Professor Christina Wolbrecht says a lot is known about the movement to get women the right to vote, but she says how women used the right to vote hasn’t received nearly as much study. 


Wolbrecht and Western Michigan University Political Science Professor Kevin Corder have written the book Counting Women’s Ballots: Female Voters from Suffrage through the New Deal. Corder says they collected a huge amount of data from census, and election returns. He says Illinois actually counted women’s and men’s ballots separately, which helped them discover how women actually voted.

The 19th amendment was ratified August 26, 1920. That left little time before the November election. But Wolbrecht says it was clear in the summer of 1920 that the amendment would be enacted. She says some states prepared with extended hours for registration. But Wolbrecht says in four southern states women could not vote in 1920. In those states the deadline to register had already passed. Instead of extending the deadline, or granting a waiver those states denied women the right to vote in one more election. 

Corder says in order to get a broad perspective on voting results, they tried to find states with a variety of conditions. He says they looked at competitive states and states where one party dominated. Corder says they also examined states with restrictive laws on voter registration and states that made it easier to vote.

Wolbrecht and Corder plan to further examine women’s voting. They’re working on a new book that uses some polling information that Gallup gathered from 1936 to 1945. He says they will also look at more contemporary survey data.

Image from Wikimedia Commons