Weekend Reading on Women's Representation March 2, 2018

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on March 02, 2018

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I have been on the road this week in Canada with Jeanne Massey from FairVote Minnesota speaking to groups in cities that have already adopted ranked choice voting or will be voting to adopt #RCV this fall. It's been great to talk with a lot of Canadians about voting system reform and women's representation - two of my favorite topics.

Highlights of the trip included meeting terrific women candidates running for various offices, speaking in a centuries old church in the heart of Toronto & at the Queen's University art gallery with Rembrandts right around the corner, and dipping into conversations about ranked ballots that are happening across the idealogical and generational spectrum in Canada. 

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Canada ranks 64th worldwide with just 26% women in parliament while the United States now ranks 99th. Both nations use a first-past-the-post aka winner-take-all voting system that disadvantages female candidates but Canada uses a ranked voting system to select party leaders resulting in a number of women in those positions. Read more about the impact of systems reforms on women's representation here!
There were a number of articles relating to ranked choice voting in the United States that may be of interest:
The Santa Fe New Mexican profiled the extraordinary work of Maria Perez - director of FairVote New Mexico. Ranked choice voting passed by a wide margin in Santa Fe about 10 years ago but had not been implemented - Maria navigated various setbacks to ensure that RCV was fully implemented for the election on March 6th - stay tuned for election results:
“This was a reasonably small group of constituents that grew in number and voiced their will and sort of forced the city to do the right thing,” said Paul Gibson of Retake Our Democracy, a volunteer activist group Gibson said would be launching numerous progressive-minded campaigns across the state in the next year “to replicate what we did with the City Council.”
“I think it showed that at a city level, or a state level — maybe not on a national level — that officials will listen to constituents if constituents speak with a unified voice,” Gibson added.
Whether the format could catch on elsewhere in New Mexico is an open question. A little less than a quarter of New Mexico voters were either not registered with any party or registered to a third party as of Feb. 1, according to the state.
The chairman of the state Libertarian Party, Chris Luchini, said the newly elevated major party is “in favor of almost every voting system out there that isn’t first-past-the-post.”
John Otter, a former Green Party treasurer who contributed to the party’s effort to get the ranked-choice amendment on the Santa Fe ballot in 2008, said third parties could and should make hay with ranked choice.
“It allows those third parties and people to have an accurate evaluation of their strengths among the populace,” he said.
The state constitution seems inclined toward protecting plurality winners. It precludes the Legislature from providing for runoffs in primary and statewide elections. An amendment would need to clear both chambers of the Legislature and be approved by the people. (One got halfway there in 1999, when the state Senate approved a blanket instant-runoff switchover.)

But home-rule New Mexico municipalities are free to install a 
runoff format. Perez said she’s had productive conversations about ranked-choice voting with a few city councilors in Albuquerque, which uses a traditional runoff format. One, Councilor Diane Gibson, confirmed the talk and said she was open to exploring the potential for ranked choice in the Duke City. Perez said she has broached the topic with potential stakeholders in Las Cruces and Rio Rancho, as well.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver acknowledged the ranking format is an “efficient” option when a winner must by statute receive a majority of the vote and, in a statement, said she would support and assist any other New Mexico city that wanted to make the move.
But a successful Santa Fe election is top of mind now. Perez and others credit numerous community organizations — and the once-recalcitrant city, too — for their contributions to voter outreach and education.
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The Capitol Hill Times reports on new efforts in Seattle to win ranked choice voting which is especially impactful in races with many candidates for one spot resulting in 'winners' whom the majority of voters did not vote for. Ranked choice voting fixes this problem endemic to our political culture by allowing voters to rank their preferences:
Nicole Macri, who was one of the cosponsors of the House bill. “I’m excited about this. There’s this effort locally in Seattle around ranked voting, and I’ve just become more educated about it — about more of the local efforts.”
Macri said she’s seen the challenges with low voter turnout during primary elections, and she believes ranked-choice voting is worth trying at the local level. It could result in candidates engaging the full electorate, she said, rather than just those most likely to vote for them anyway.
“I’ve been convinced that you get a better sense of what voters really want. When I ran for office, we had a very crowded field — we had eight candidates,” Macri said. “Different things, I think, drive people’s voting strategy. When you have that many candidates, you know what voters’ first choice is, but you don’t know the second.”
Cole said doing away with the primary would make it easier for candidates new to politics to participate, and also provide them more time to campaign.
The Central Maine paper reported on the status of ranked choice voting in Maine where it will be used - and voted on - in the June primary:
Supporters of ranked-choice voting have been braving sub-freezing temperatures, armed with pens and petitions, to stop the legislative repeal of the people’s law. And it paid off the moment we turned in 80,000 signatures, well above the number we originally submitted.
But longtime supporters and benefiters of the status quo are using scare tactics to stop Maine people from being able to vote their hopes, not their fears. Opponents are saying that ranked-choice voting will bring “chaos,” suggesting the results will not be known “for weeks.” Let’s be clear, the secretary of state has had since November 2016 to prepare for the June primary with ranked-choice voting.
As one of the initiators of the original referendum, I can say more than most just how much work went into getting our initiative on the ballot in the first place, let alone going door to door explaining ranked-choice voting to voters. At every step of the way establishment politicos and many lawmakers said, “The voters won’t understand it.”
Newsflash: Voters aren’t stupid.
Voters understand that the current system is broke. We understand that minority candidates with minority views can and do win elections. And we understand the growing trend from dismissing the values of voters to being openly hostile to us.
Voters wanted a chance to elect better politicians, but a majority of Augusta politicians — with even some Democrats — thought Mainers were just fine with the politicians they had. So they effectively repealed ranked-choice voting to stop voters from fixing this broken system.
 
And as we head into Oscar2018 weekend you can read about this effort by celebrities to achieve gender parity for women on the screen, listen to this podcast about the use of ranked choice voting for Oscar winners, and try the RankIt App to select your favorites in all the various categories. Boston.com also wrote about the use of ranked choice voting this week as well. I am rooting for the woman to win best director!
Finally, the Oscars provide a good lesson for us in the use of categories for men and women which ensure a level playing field - we do the same for our Olympic team and for convention delegates (both D & R). Isn't it past time to employ the same tactics for the recruitment of women candidates? I certainly think so - read more here.
Don't forget to come to the ReflectUS launch this coming Tuesday March 6th in Washington, DC and if you can't be there with us in person please help to amplify our reach by following ReflectUS on social media - starting on Tuesday - using the hashtag #reflectus!
Warmly, from snowy Canada,
Cynthia
P.S. Please look to see where your state ranks on RepresentWomen's Gender Parity Index and share our new map and report on your networks!
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