After refusing to co-sponsor a bill to reauthorize the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Deb Fischer reversed course and voted for the bill Tuesday. The bill passed 78-22. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), had 62 co-sponsors from both parties—including every female member of the Senate other than Fischer. Fischer’s refusal to co-sponsor was widely seen as a signal that she would vote against the renewal, and her about-face is seen as a major victory for progressive groups that lobbied in favor of the bill.

Last week Malinda Frevert—a CREDO activist and former staff member with Bold Nebraska—launched the online petition, “Tell Senator Fischer to Help Domestic Violence Victims.” Frevert delivered the petition on Wednesday to the senator’s office with the support of over 800 Nebraskans. By Thursday the still-active online petition had over 1,000 signatures. Frevert created the petition after Fischer refused to cosponsor the bill to reauthorize the act, which expired in 2011. Frevert explained that, “Since VAWA was first passed in 1994, domestic violence incidents have dropped by sixty percent, but the rates are still dangerously high. VAWA saves lives.” Frevert challenged Fischer to “get off the sidelines and take a stand for victims.”

Fischer spokesman, Joe Hack, told Frevert that the senator had voted in favor of moving to debate the legislation early last week and that she supported Sen. Chuck Grassley’s proposed amendment “to improve the bill as she wants to ensure any legislation passed by the Senate will be fully effective in meeting the stated goal of reducing violent crimes against women.” By end of day Thursday Fischer announced that she intended to vote in favor of the comprehensive legislation. Frevert hailed this as a win for CREDO and a perfect example of how online petition campaigns can be used to hold elected officials accountable.

Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, also from Nebraska, voted against the bill. “We are disappointed that Sen. Johanns turned his back on Nebraska women,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska Director. “Democratic and Republican Leaders in Washington sent a clear message today that they will stand together to protect those most vulnerable in our society. It is unfortunate that Johanns was in the clear minority.”

From June 2010 to February 2012, Malinda Frevert was the news director for Bold Nebraska. Bold Nebraska is a statewide nonprofit organization committed to changing Nebraska’s political landscape and restoring balance to our politics.