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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 14th, 2023

Dear Readers,

The team here at RepresentWomen focuses much of our research on identifying ways to increase women’s political representation – primarily by getting more women elected! We accept it as a given that more women in public office means a more representative democracy. But now that we have entire legislative bodies that are majority women, we have an opportunity to measure that impact and support our intuition with data. When we hosted our Toast to Women Leaders in Democracy event this week, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson expressed our thoughts perfectly, saying “When women lead, democracy wins.” Our analysis of the impact of the majority-women City Council in New York City proves exactly that. We’ll be sharing more of our findings in the coming weeks, but in studying the legislative impact of a council that was majority women of color, we found a tremendous level of effectiveness and responsiveness. We learned through our previous research why women won in the 2021 NYC City Council election, and now we have concrete data to prove why it matters.

Women in Delaware Are "Shattering" Glass Ceilings

Gender Parity Index 2022

According to Cris Barrish at WHYY, Delaware's General Assembly shows promising signs of change. Valerie Longhurst is the first woman speaker of the House, and the other two top posts, Majority Leader and Majority Whip, are held by two Black women: Melissa Minor-Brown and Kerri Evelyn Harris. Currently, 16 of the 41 members (39%) are women. In the General Assembly as a whole, 24 of 62 members (39%) are women. This is an increase of 8% from before the 2022 election and 15% since 2000.

Stay tuned to see how Delaware will fare in our upcoming 2023 Gender Parity Index!

“We’re elated, and we hope this trend continues in the future,’’ said Itzkowitz, who chairs the league’s voting and elections committees. “We find that this is a step toward more inclusiveness in government, especially since there will be a diversity of race and sexual orientation.”...

With three women now in charge of House Democrats, who hold a 26-15 advantage over Republicans, Itzkowitz predicted an even sharper focus on issues affecting women...

“This is a new journey for the Delaware House of Representatives, and having three women [leading the way] brings a different perspective,’’ Longhurst said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be drastically changed where people feel that they’re going to be uncomfortable. I just hope that we can continue to work together … and I don’t see there really being any bumps in the road. I expect us to all get along.”

Ranked Choice Voting Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania.


Lauren Jessop from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports on ranked choice voting possibly being implemented in Pennsylvania. State Representative Christopher Rabb has proposed a bill to establish the use of ranked choice voting (RCV) for municipal elections. The bill was opposed by those who claimed it confuses voters and lowers voter turnout. Representative Rabb emphasized that voter outreach and education are vital for RCV's successful implementation. 

We know that ranked choice voting helps elect more women. RepresentWomen's "Why Women Won in 2021" report finds that RCV was critical in electing a women-majority city council in New York City. If the bill is passed, it will allow more women to be elected in Pennsylvania. RepresentWomen will undoubtedly be keeping an eye out for how this bill progresses. To learn more about how RCV helps women, check out our interactive dashboard from our "Ranked Choice Voting and Women's Representation in the U.S." memo!

Primary election candidates sometimes win by slim margins in Pennsylvania, prompting some state lawmakers to find new ways to ensure winners secure broader support from voters.

Rep. Christopher Rabb, D-Philadelphia, has recently introduced several pieces of election-related legislation — one of which would institute ranked choice voting at the municipal level.

Ranked choice voting, or RCV, is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference on their ballots. The system kicks in if no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes.

In the absence of a majority winner, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, lifting the next-preference choices on the ballot. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

It's Time for Statues of Women to Join the Men on the National Mall

The National Mall has yet to dedicate an independent monument to women, despite recent legislation that was passed to create one. Stephanie Green highlighted the importance of having this kind of monument on the National Mall in her article in The Washington Post.

“The National Mall is home to memorials for those who fought for our freedom, Presidents who defined our country, and the seat of our government, and it is only fitting that it also houses the Women’s Suffrage National Monument,” Baldwin said in a statement upon introducing the bill.

There are monuments on the Mall that feature women, but none in quite the same way as the suffrage memorial proposes. A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, for instance, is there “largely as the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, for a memorial in honor of his legacy,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said in an interview. “Similarly, the women represented at the Vietnam Memorial are there to tell the story of the Vietnam conflict.”

It would be a “real deficit if the women’s suffrage movement, which started in 1848 in Seneca Falls, wasn’t given a prominent place on the Mall,” Brinkley said. “The monument deserves to be visible and dramatic.”

Rep. Mesha Mainor’s Departure from Democratic Party Gives Georgia G.O.P. First Black Woman in State House

Neil Vigdor wrote a fascinating piece for the New York Times about Georgia's Democratic State Rep. Mesha Mainor's announcement that she switched to the Republican Party on Tuesday. State Rep. Mainor's decision comes after repeatedly voting against the Democratic Party platform, particularly by supporting a failed school voucher bill. The two-term representative's decision to leave the Democratic Party means that a member of the general opposition party will represent her mostly Democratic constituents in Georgia's deep-blue 56th state house district. 

Ms. Mainor, 48, is the first Black woman to hold office as a Republican in Georgia’s state house, according to Stewart Bragg, director of the Georgia House Republican caucus.In 2021, Ms. Mainor was one of three Democrats in the House who backed a G.O.P. bill that curbed the powers of counties to reduce funding for the police. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican.

She also sided with Republicans this spring in the creation of a state oversight commission that has the power to investigate and remove local prosecutorsAt the news conference on Tuesday, Ms. Mainor said Democrats no longer shared the values that had drawn her to the party.

“Members of the Democrat Party have publicly slandered me in every way imaginable,” she said. Democrats disavowed Ms. Mainor on Tuesday as a rogue lawmaker and pledged to challenge her next year.

Be sure to check out RepresentWomen's Memo on the roadmap to representation for women of color to understand the barriers and opportunities facing WOC seeking to run for elected office positions.

From Ice Cream to Elected Officials- We All Want Our Choices Heard

In a fantastic article published this week in The FulcrumKevin Frazier compared the existing winner-take-all electoral system's lack of voter choice to an ice cream store where your choices are essentially predetermined. He emphasizes how changes, like ranked choice voting, contribute to a stronger democracy for all of us.

Imagine going to an ice cream shop known for its flavor selection... The guy behind the counter asks for your choice - you switch at the last second and ask for two scoops of fudge brownie. But the scooper scowls and reports, “I can only offer chocolate or vanilla.” Shocked, you ask why. He quips, “The name of the store is ‘Two for You.’ The owner picks two flavors for us to sell each day and today you get chocolate or vanilla.”

Our political “flavor” preferences are also all over the place but the “owners of the shop”-- the individuals and entities with the most sway over our democracy– have forced us to pick from two choices many find either unacceptable or subpar. Some citizens would even claim to be allergic to one or both of the choices...

The solution should be somewhat obvious using the ice cream shop analogy. Though the current two-party menu seems fixed, there are means for the people to provide with more choice. Alaska, for example, has adopted the Final Five voting system to elect its officials. In that system, all candidates compete in an open primary, which means that the two major parties have far less control over who makes it to the general elections. The top five finishers in that open primary then compete in the general election, with the winner being determined through ranked-choice voting (RCV)... Any effort that returns democratic choice to the people, rather than the two parties, is worthwhile.

True Democracy Means Women in Power

Academic Minna Cowper-Coles analyzes the role of women in democracy in an article for World Politics Review. Studies about women in various levels of government show that the presence of women in legislative bodies has a positive effect on policy outcomes. Legislation that protects women's rights and emphasizes social services and education is more likely to be passed by women legislators. Additionally, countries with greater peace, reduced military expenditures, and a heightened focus on environmental concerns correlate with more gender diversity in legislatures. The lack of representation of women in politics is a sign that the current system of governance needs reform. Read about RepresentWomen's structural solutions to women's political barriers here.

The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that having a gender-balanced legislature is important in terms of policy outcomes, but it is also key for the fundamentals of democracy itself. Women still hold only 26.8 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide, and women are the heads of state and government in only 31 out of 193 countries. This shocking underrepresentation reflects poorly on the quality of democracy and meritocracy in our societies and shows that there is something very wrong with our systems of governance. The absence of women from politics means that our understanding of which issues are “serious” and “important” has been shaped by men’s perspectives. For our societies to better serve women, there must be more women in politics.

Moreover, at a time when democratic values are under threat around the world and trust in government is greatly reduced, it is important to do everything we can to bolster our democracies. The fact that half our population is persistently and substantially underrepresented constitutes a major flaw that must be addressed.

Mock Election With Some Familiar Candidates!

This week’s ranked choice voting poll will be a mock election with some familiar fictional characters as candidates! Cast your vote here.

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

Cynthia Richie Terrell

P.S. This week RepresentWomen hosted a “Toast to Women Leaders in Democracy” happy hour to celebrate the current and future women leaders in politics. Thank you to Secretary Jocelyn Benson and Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver for co-hosting and their inspiring words during the memorable toast. We would also love to say a special thanks to Representative Don Beyer and Representative Jamie Raskin for attending and highlighting the need for systems reform to build women’s political power! 

This event would not have been possible without the entire RepresentWomen team and all of their hard work on this event. It was our honor to gather and celebrate some of the many people dedicated to increasing women's political representation, and we're looking forward to more events like this in the future!


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