The political landscape looks very different this year, and there's no denying that voting on bills is going to be a struggle for many politicians who might be at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus. This group of at-risk politicians includes new moms, which is the point Rep. Buffy Wicks was trying to make when the California lawmaker brought her baby to the Assembly floor after being denied the right to vote by proxy. And I suspect, or at least hope, her point was well taken.
The lawmaker from Oakland gave birth in July, and on Monday she showed up at the California State Senate with her 1-month-old baby girl wearing a face mask to discuss the remote voting access she was denied. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the California Assembly allowed voting by proxy if members were at an elevated health risk. Wicks' spokesperson Erin Ivie told Politico that her request to vote by proxy had been rejected "on the grounds that maternity leave is not eligible for proxy voting."
Instead the new mom made the drive from Oakland to Sacramento with her baby girl to support a bill to facilitate multi-unit housing before noting that she needed to be allowed to vote by proxy to avoid contracting the coronavirus. Her recent time giving birth to a human apparently didn't qualify her as a high-risk candidate for the virus, despite the fact that some of her fellow Republican lawmakers were allowed to vote by proxy, as Politico reported.
While on the floor of the Assembly, Wicks asked that the bill she supported would "please, please" be passed, before saying, "And I'm going to finish feeding my daughter."
Sadly, as Wicks tweeted on Tuesday, the bill was not passed but "I promise you this: I will *always* show up for housing — no matter what."
The issue being, as many people took to Twitter to note, that she should not have been expected to "show up" for that vote one month after giving birth... with her daughter in tow, during a pandemic. As one social media user wrote, "It's a shame that these things still happen in 2020. If men could give birth, this wouldn't even be a discussion, this would have literally been implemented briefly after the invention of electricity."
Another pointed out that Wicks had done more than many others on the Assembly floor. "Thank you Assemblymember. I can’t help but contrast your level of grit and determination to legislators on the floor who hadn’t recently given birth and weren’t nursing a newborn, yet still failed to even cast votes on many bills." Even Hilary Clinton shared Wick's story on Twitter, perhaps because she knows a thing or two about potential sexism in politics.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has been working for the past year in the state of California on a "parents' agenda," an initiative to prioritize issues that affect working parents in the state. It's a shame that agenda did not help Buffy Wick as she tried to help others.