The 8 Voter Issues At Stake for Young Women in 2022

Women have outnumbered men in recent midterm elections. If this pattern continues, women may determine 2022 midterm election outcomes.

Updated March 24, 2022

Edited by Brenna Swanston
The 8 Voter Issues At Stake for Young Women in 2022
Opinion & Analysis Student Voting
Photo by Hill Street Studios / DigitalVision / Getty Images

  • The 2022 midterm elections will determine 469 congressional seats and many state and local offices.
  • Many issues important to women voters, including reproductive rights and childcare and parental leave, are at stake in 2022.
  • In recent midterm elections, women voters outnumbered men, which means they could have an outsized impact this year.
  • Look up a sample ballot to learn what's on your ballot this fall.

On Nov. 8, 2022, voters will make their voices heard. With 469 seats in Congress up for grabs, along with over 300 state executives and 84% of state legislative seats, the 2022 midterm election will determine the country's future direction. The midterm will put key issues on the ballot as well.

In every midterm election since 1998, women have voted at higher rates than men. If this trend continues, this year's midterm election might rest on women voters.

Young women, in particular, will have a chance to weigh in on major policy issues during the 2022 midterms that will have lasting repercussions for their future. So, what issues matter most for women voters? And what choices will they face at the ballot box?

Our rundown looks at the most important voter issues for young women on the 2022 midterm ballot. And check sample ballots to preview what's on the ballot in your district.

Reproductive Rights

Last year was a pivotal moment for reproductive rights. Texas passed a law banning abortion after six weeks, and the Supreme Court declined to stop it. Likewise, a case out of Mississippi could overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Reproductive rights are a critical issue for college students. And the 2022 midterms could shape the future of women's bodily autonomy. Ballotpedia projects that 2022 could have more abortion-related ballot measures than any other election. Voters in Vermont, Kansas, and Kentucky will directly weigh in on reproductive rights. Other states could add to that number.

The current Congress, led by Democrats, has pushed for national protections for reproductive rights. If Republicans retake Congress, expect more restrictions on reproductive rights. Likewise, if state legislatures move further to the right, more states will likely follow Texas and Mississippi in legislating new reproductive restrictions.

Student Loan Debt

The student loan crisis is a major issue on the 2022 midterm ballot. This is also a key women's issue.

Women are more likely to take out loans to pay for college. They owe 58% of all student debt, adding up to a staggering $929 billion.

What's more, women spend, on average, two years longer than men to repay their debt. And the student loan crisis disproportionately affects Black women. On average, 12 years after taking out student loans, Black women owe 13% more than they originally borrowed.

At the national level, key Democratic members of Congress have pushed for canceling $50,000 in student loan debt. On the other side of the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested eliminating student loan interest, and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed letting borrowers pay their loans with their 401Ks.

A March 2022 bill proposed by House Republicans would end the current student loan payment pause.

Title IX Reform

The past three presidential administrations have revised Title IX's sexual harassment and assault rules. The future of the law, originally passed in 1972 to protect equal access to higher education for men and women, may depend on the 2022 midterm elections.

While recent changes to Title IX came through executive order, the next Congress could pass reforms or limit funding to enforce Title IX.

More broadly, education ranks as a top issue for voters. With school board, superintendent, and other local education positions on the ballot, expect to hear a lot about education in the 2022 midterms.

Childcare and Parental Leave

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed millions of women out of the workforce, often to care for children. And America's childcare and parental leave policies lag behind the rest of the world. While Britain, Japan, and Sweden offer 39-68 weeks of paid parental leave, the U.S. offers zero. Stronger childcare and parental leave policies translate to more women in the workforce.

At the national level, recent Democratic proposals have argued for paid family leave, childcare subsidies, and universal pre-K. Republican proposals have suggested tax incentives for companies to offer on-site childcare and a higher limit on dependent care savings plans.

With little action at the national level, your state ballot may play a larger role in childcare and parental leave policies. As of 2022, nine states offer paid family leave. Will more states join them? That depends on the election results.

Violence Against Women Act

In 2019, the Violence Against Women Act lapsed, and Congress failed to reauthorize the bill until 2022. When the act came up for a vote in 2021, 172 Republicans in the House voted against the bill.

The 2022 bill authorizes the Violence Against Women Act through 2027 and expands the act's provisions to include more violence prevention programs in college.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action policies date back to the 1960s. Since then, white women have been the largest beneficiaries of affirmative action. Affirmative action is a current hot-button issue in politics and the courts, and the midterms could decide the fate of such policies.

In 2020, California voted on a proposition that would have ended the state's ban on affirmative action. Voters kept the ban in place, meaning the state's public schools cannot consider race in admissions. Other state and local ballots may determine the role of affirmative action in college admissions and hiring.

Equal Pay Laws

Women earn around 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man — and the gender pay gap is even worse for women with a college degree. In Congress, the Democratic-sponsored Paycheck Fairness Act will expand equal pay protections to more women and make it easier to recover damages. Republicans oppose the legislation.

Economic Policies

Should the minimum wage increase? What's the best way to battle inflation? And should the federal government fund economic relief programs?

Women rank the economy as a top issue in the 2022 midterms. Healthcare costs are another major issue for women. Healthcare is linked with the economic recovery, inflation, and price increases. The midterms will give women a chance to voice their economic priorities for the future.