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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation June 23rd,2023

Dear Readers,

This week of June is packed with historic firsts and anniversaries. Ranked choice voting was used in Arlington County for the first time; Juneteenth and the anniversary of Title IX have all happened this week. Tomorrow marks one year since Roe v. Wade was overturned. As we strive for equality, it is essential to remember both the progress and the setbacks we have faced, so that we can be pragmatic about the work ahead.

Ranked Choice Voting Reaches Arlington County, Virginia

This past Tuesday, Arlington County debuted ranked choice voting for its board elections and the Virginia Democratic Primary. Voters have ranked their top three options of candidates. If their candidate of choice gets 33.3% of the vote, they will have a spot on the general election ballot. In order to prevent any other candidates from receiving a larger vote share, a minimum of 33.3% is required for any candidate. Ranked choice voting will help reassure voters that they can vote for the candidate they want rather than who they think will win. While the results of this election are not known yet, we do know that ranked choice voting has helped women win in other places, such as New York City.

Proportional RCV is a multi-winner version of RCV and is a great way to select nominees that fully represent the primary electorate. In Arlington, voters will rank up to three candidates in order of preference. For a candidate to secure a place on the general election ballot, they need 33.3% of votes – the point at which mathematically, no two other candidates can surpass their vote share. 

If no two candidates win 33.3% of voters’ first-choice support, backup choices come into play. If your favorite candidate performed poorly or you already helped your first choice surpass 33.3%, your vote can help your second choice reach the threshold (and so on until two candidates are nominated). As a result, a vast majority of voters (at least 66.6%) will help nominate a candidate they support, and the nominees will be reflective of voters’ preferences. In the last competitive 2-seat county board primary in 2015, the top two winners combined earned only 45% of the vote.

In fact, in past U.S. elections that have used proportional RCV, over 90% of voters see one of their top three choices win a seat – showing that RCV better reflects the will of the voters even if their favorite candidate does not win. Compare this to other election methods, where only 30 or 40% of voters may see their votes elect a winner. 

Affirmative Action and the Supreme Court: "White Women Should Pay it Forward"

As of this week, the Supreme Court has two cases on its docket that will determine the future of affirmative action. Although affirmative action policies are typically discussed in reference to racial and ethnic minorities, white women have been among the largest beneficiaries. In her New York Times opinion piece, Judge Scheindlin, who served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1994 to 2016, calls for white women to reaffirm the policies that have helped so many achieve positions of leadership.

We rightly celebrate the achievements of women and people of color on the bench. The federal judiciary, for example, now has the first Black female Supreme Court justice, the first Black female judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and the first Latino judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. And the nomination of the first Latina judge to sit on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is pending in the Senate.

But there is still more progress to be made, in the courts and beyond, especially for women of color who face unique barriers because of sexism and racism. White women must leverage the privilege and positions they have achieved and stand alongside communities of color.

We have an obligation to recommend, hire, promote, nominate, and honor not only those who look like us but also those who do not. If we all do that only twice in our careers, we will have gone beyond merely talking about diversity to achieving the goal of creating a country in which opportunity and advancement are open to all.

The social fabric of universities, and consequently our greater society and our democracy, depends on it.

U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester Announces Senate Bid in Delaware

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester has announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The Democratic politician has represented Delaware’s at-large district since assuming office in 2017, becoming the first person of color to represent the “Blue Hen State.” She is running for Delaware’s open Senate seat currently held by Senator Tom Carper, who is not seeking re-election next year. If elected, Rep. Blunt Rochester could become the third Black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s been the greatest honor of my life to represent Delaware, to protect our seniors, our environment, our small businesses, and women’s reproductive rights. But we’ve got so much more to do,” the four-term congresswoman says in an announcement video released Wednesday.

Blunt Rochester is widely viewed as a front-runner for her party’s nomination for the safe Democratic seat. She enters the race with the backing of Carper, her former boss, who announced in May that he would retire after his term ends in early 2025.

If elected, Blunt Rochester would be the first Black senator to represent Delaware. She became the first woman and first Black person to represent Delaware in Congress when she won the state’s at-large US House district in 2016.

Her candidacy underscores the lack of diversity in the Senate, which has had no Black female members since Kamala Harris left the chamber to serve as vice president. Blunt Rochester is among several Black Democratic women running for Senate in 2024, including Rep. Barbara Lee in California and Angela Alsobrooks in Maryland, both of whom are running in competitive Democratic primaries for open seats.

Mexico Could Get Its First Woman President

Last week, Reuters shared a great article on Claudia Sheinbaum, Mayor of Mexico City, who stepped down from her position to pursue a presidential bid in the 2024 election. If she wins, she will be the first woman to ever be President of Mexico. In addition to our international research, we have also found that women have the best chance of success in open-seat elections, which is why systemic rules like Mexico's presidential term limits are crucial. 

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) on Sunday agreed that on Sept. 6 it would announce the winner of its internal selection process. Sheinbaum is one of the two favorites...

He cannot seek re-election because Mexican presidents are restricted by law to a single six-year term. Close aides to Lopez Obrador have told Reuters they believe he would like Sheinbaum to succeed him. He denies having any favorite.

Announcing her resignation plan at a press conference on Monday, the 60-year-old Sheinbaum underlined her credentials as a scientist and environmentalist, saying she would continue Lopez Obrador's "transformation" of Mexico with her "own stamp..."

Sheinbaum also cited a study published last month by the national statistics agency showing that over two-thirds of Mexicans strongly backed a woman holding the presidency.

"It's time for women," she said.

That's all for this week. Enjoy your weekend and happy summer!

Cynthia Richie Terrell and the RepresentWomen team


This year the United States observed its newest federal holiday, Juneteenth. The holiday is celebrated on June 19 and commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.

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