Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who will speak on Tuesday during the second night of the Republican National Convention, has advocated in recent months for a head-of-household voting system that has historically barred women and people of color from casting ballots.
“What is the most controversial thing you believe?” Johnson asked on Twitter in early May.
“I would support bringing back household voting,” Johnson replied to her tweet. “How anti-feminist of me.”
Johnson’s prime time RNC remarks come on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which extended voting rights to women. (In practice, many women of color were excluded for many years thereafter.)
Before the adoption of the 19th Amendment, and the 15th Amendment, which prohibits denying U.S. citizens the right to vote based on race, the right to vote was largely extended to White men who owned property and, in some cases, met certain religious criteria. Previously, some states had extended voting rights to Black men and White men who did not own property. Several had laws permitting women to cast ballots. One argument made against women’s suffrage was that their male husbands could vote on behalf of the household.
Today, “head of household” is a filing status within the U.S. tax system that provides financial savings to unmarried individuals with children or other dependents. Head-of-household decision making is used in some religious communities, with male spouses and partners nearly universally being the head.
Head-of-household voting would permit only the head of a household — and not all household members who are citizens over 18 years of age — to cast a ballot. Johnson believes the male member of the household would be the de facto decision maker.
“But what happens when the husband is a Republican and the wife is a Democrat or vice versa?” a Twitter user asked Johnson.
“Then they would have to decide on one vote. In a Godly household, the husband would get the final say,” she replied.
Johnson’s convention speaking role comes as the presidential campaigns of Trump and Democrat Joe Biden vie for support from women, particularly White suburban women and women without college degrees, who are the most likely to be reconsidering backing the president in November after doing so in 2016.
Kyle Morse, the spokesperson for American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC that supports Democrats, said Johnson’s speaking slot “further underscores just how extreme Donald Trump’s GOP has become.”
In a statement to The 19th, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said, “President Trump strongly supports the sacred principle of one person, one vote.”
Johnson worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years before leaving to become an anti-abortion activist and found And Then There Were None, an organization that supports the career transitions of individuals working in facilities that perform abortions. Her story was chronicled in a 2019 film.
Similar statements about head-of-household voting have landed other Republicans in hot water. In 2018, a Republican county precinct chair in Utah wrote on Facebook: “The more I study history the more I think giving voting rights to others not head of household has been a grave mistake!” The state party chair denounced the remark, saying: “The Constitution, while divinely inspired, has been improved via amendments that made voter equality a right of America’s citizenry.”
This article has been updated with a statement from the Trump campaign.