Interview with Michelle Whittaker

By Evelien van Gelderen by on August 07, 2018

The RepresentWomen interns spoke with Michelle Whittaker, the Communications Manager for Manna Food Center and former Communications/Digital Media Director at Democracy Initiative, last week. Whittaker was previously the Director of Communications at FairVote, where she worked on electoral system reforms such as ranked choice voting. She also worked as the Communications and New Media Director for the General Board of Church and Society, an agency of The United Methodist Church. She recently ran Brandy Brooks’ campaign for an At-Large County Council seat in Montgomery County, MD.

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Primary Recap: Tennessee

By Barbara Turnbull by on August 03, 2018

Though hundreds of women are running and winning in 2018’s Congressional primaries, Republican women are strikingly underrepresented: just 17 percent of women nominees so far this cycle are Republicans. Prior to yesterday’s primary, Tennessee was widely considered to be an exception to this “rule”, with several experienced and well-known Republican women running for House, Senate, and Governor. The state has never elected a woman Governor or Senator.


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#WomentoWatch on August 7

By Evelien van Gelderen by on August 03, 2018

#WomenToWatch is a series by RepresentWomen that documents rising women leaders and their stories.

If Sharice Davids wins the Democratic primary for her district, Kansas 3rd, she could go on to be the first female Native American to serve in Congress and the first openly gay Kansas representative.

Davids, the daughter of a single Army mother, grew up on various military bases across the country. She went on to earn a law degree from Cornell, and served as a White House fellow during President Obama’s final year in office. The 37-year-old is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a former MMA fighter.

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Where Is the Data on Judicial Representation?

By Katie Pruitt by on August 03, 2018

















San Francisco Superior Court Judges. California is the only state that collects data on minority representation, women's representation, and LGBTQIA+ representation on the bench. Source: Superior Court of California

This post is part of the Balanced Bench project, our ongoing project about representation in the state judiciary. Read our first post about why diversity on the state bench matters here.

In 2016, Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon, in conjunction with the American Constitution Society, published a study titled “The Gavel Gap” that found that 69.8% of state judges were men and 80.4% were white. In order to get this data, George, Yoon, and a team of research assistants spent over a year combing through federal court websites, press releases, newspapers, and other resources to create a database of over 10,000 state judges’ biographies. Despite this extensive effort, the finished database is still incomplete. They were unable to find data on the race of about 5% of judges. This database also excludes the nearly 20,000 judges who sit on local and special jurisdiction courts. Furthermore, the database also only reflects the makeup of the bench in 2014; many judges have inevitably retired or been voted out of office in the past four years.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation August 2, 2018

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on August 02, 2018


I am writing to you on a Thursday again because we are dashing off to our beloved cabin in the Pine Barrens tonight to spend 36 hours with all three of our children after my husband testifies to the NYC Charter Commission about the merits of Ranked Choice Voting which most New Yorkers call Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). Implementing IRV in NYC will save taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating costly/low participation runoff elections. IRV/RCV will also help to increase turnout & civility, and fuel the election of women & people of color.
If you are a New Yorker please visit the new FairVoteNY website to learn how to contact your council member and the mayor and ask them to support Instant Runoff Voting! It'd be great if you would also sign the petition and follow FairVoteNY on Facebook, on Twitter, & on Instagram!

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Indigenous Women's Representation

By Izzy Allum on August 02, 2018


By Izzy Allum

With the 2018 midterm elections quickly approaching, American politics are once again in the spotlight. However, one area of American politics that has long being left in the shadows is the sovereign Native-American governments housed within our country. Native-American tribes, or “nations,” have separate, federally recognized governments, and they have the right to pass their own laws and run their own courts. For decades, the political representation of women and how to increase it has been extensively studied and discussed, but little research has been done on the representation of women in Native-American tribal governments. In an attempt to begin filling in this missing data, RepresentWomen has begun looking into the legislative and judicial branches of thirteen tribal governments.

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Interview with Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf

By Evelien van Gelderen by on August 02, 2018


The RepresentWomen interns spoke with Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf on Tuesday. Elizabeth “Libby” Schaaf was elected the Mayor of Oakland, California in 2014 in a ranked choice voting election. Schaaf was born and raised in Oakland and has long been involved in volunteerism in her community. She co-founded Oakland Cares, a non-profit dedicated to organizing volunteer and community projects. A Loyola Law School graduate, Schaaf worked as a legislative aid for former mayor Jerry Brown and served on the Oakland City Council. As mayor, Schaaf has focused on improving education, reducing homelessness, and improving community safety. In 2016, she launched the Oakland Promise, an education initiative aiming to triple the number of college graduates from Oakland by 2025.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 27, 2018

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on July 27, 2018

Ennahda Souad Abderrahim in Tunisia
Dear all,
There was a fascinating article in the Middle East Eye about how Islamist parties are advancing women's rights:

Contrary to prominent views in the West and among secular liberal groups about women in Islamist movements being submissive to a male-dominated hierarchy, there has been an increase in women's participation and role in these movements.

In Egypt, more women have been participating in the Muslim Brotherhood's political activities. This month, In the Tunisian capital, Tunis, Souad Abderrahim became the first woman elected mayor.

Abderrahim, a 53-year-old pharmaceutical company head, is a leading figure in Ennahda, a traditionally conservative party describing itself as "Muslim democrats". She has often been portrayed as a symbol of the party's openness and embrace of modern values, and her nomination challenged stereotypes about the differing opinions on women held by Islamists and secularists.

While Ennahda supported Abderrahim's candidacy, Foued Bousslama, a member of the "secular and modern" Nidaa Tounes party called it "unacceptable" because she would be unable to attend a mosque during Ramadan.

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#WomenToWatch on August 7

By Barbara Turnbull by on July 27, 2018

#WomenToWatch is a series by RepresentWomen that documents rising women leaders and their stories.

Primary season resumes in early August, when voters in Tennessee, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, and Washington will pick their candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.


There are dozens of accomplished and passionate women running in these five states’ primaries, and it was difficult to choose just one woman to spotlight this week as part of #WomenToWatch. Brenda Jones, House candidate for Michigan’s 13th district, stands out because of her 13 years of service and leadership on Detroit’s City Council. Currently, Jones is serving her second term as the council’s president. She describes her Congressional platform as “JONES: Jobs, Opportunities, Neighborhoods, Education, and Safety”, and says these have been her priorities since her first term on the city council.

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Introducing the Balanced Bench Project: Examining Representation in the State Judiciary

By Katie Pruitt by on July 26, 2018

President Donald Trump just nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace outgoing Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Soon after, CNN ran an article citing a statistic that, if confirmed, Kavanaugh will be the 108th white man to serve on the Supreme Court (he would be only the 114th justice to ever serve). By contrast, the Census Bureau estimates that in 2017, only 30.8% of the U.S. population were white men. Several news outlets shared this statistic to emphasize the vast underrepresentation of people of color and women on the Supreme Court.

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