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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation March 1, 2024

Dear Readers, 

Happy First Day of Women’s History Month! RepresentWomen celebrated the Women’s Power Collaborative, gaining its 100th member this week. The members represent approximately 90 organizations nationwide, including advocates, academics, and elected officials. This is a milestone for our organization and the fantastic network of women working together to build political power. Jessica Haller, the former Executive Director of The New Majority NYC, joined us this week as she hosted our Women’s Power Collaborative Lunch and Learn. Her presentation on the twin-track approach to boosting women’s representation this week was informative and received well by our group. If you are interested in learning more about the monthly series, our Lunch and Learn videos are added to our YouTube page. We can’t wait for the next Lunch and Learn in March!

We are now on TikTok! Please follow us as we engage on a new platform – and let me know if you’d like to join me on this new journey by adding a short video about women’s representation!

For this Weekend Reading, learn about a trailblazing Senator in Georgia bidding farewell to the Capitol, the electoral system used in New Zealand, a Black councilwoman’s experience as she continues to break barriers in public office, and the role Nikki Haley plays in the relationship between Republican women and Donald Trump. 

A Trailblazer Bids Farewell


Mazhar Abbas covers Senator Gloria Butler and her retirement from the Georgia State Senate after announcing she will not seek re-election. Elected to the Senate in 1998, Senator Butler is known for her legislative priorities as they would create a better future for underserved communities. During her tenure and amongst her many accomplishments, Senator Butler consistently advocated for women, including women’s representation in politics.

Her legislative efforts have focused on healthcare reform and advocacy for women and children, notably contributing to the establishment of the Child Fatality Review Panel and the 2013 Medicaid Reform Study Committee. Butler's impact extends beyond her legislative achievements; she has been an active member of organizations such as the National Organization of Black Elected Leaders and Women in Legislative Lobby, advocating for greater representation of women in legislative processes.

She made history as the first Black woman to lead the Democratic Caucus and exemplified the true essence of Democratic leadership in a politically shifting state. Despite the shift towards Republican leadership, Butler remained steadfast in her priorities of working on behalf of the people.

As Butler prepares for retirement, tributes from colleagues and political figures have poured in, highlighting her leadership style, dedication, and significant impact on Georgia's political landscape. Her retirement marks the end of an era, but her contributions will continue to influence the state's political dialogue and policy-making processes. Butler's career serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of advocating for underrepresented communities in the political arena.

New Zealand Celebrates Ranked Choice Voting

Courtesy: Ms. Magazine. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a joint press conference. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

My husband, Rob Richie and I wrote an op-ed in Ms. Magazine, highlighting New Zealand’s use of a mixed-member proportional voting system and the lessons we learned that grounded our work for ranked choice voting in the United States. Thirty years ago, we witnessed the introduction of a new voting system into New Zealand politics. Like the United States, New Zealand inherited a winner-takes-all  voting system from the UK– and . the major party in power largely benefitted from this model, but the example of New Zealand shows that large-scale democracy reform is possible.

New Zealand was seemingly an impossible place to win reform. It was the world’s most quintessentially winner-take-all democracy – one with just a single national chamber of 99 legislators, elected by plurality, “first past the post” voting in single-member districts. Minor parties couldn’t get traction, and the people lacked a citizen initiative. The major party winning the most seats earned absolute power and typically would have little incentive to change the electoral rules. Even so, New Zealand changed to a fully proportional system in 1993.

Our work in New Zealand inspired us to fight for RCV here in the United States, but we fought for other systems as well. Systems include cumulative voting, “Districts Plus,” and the “Free Voting.” We also champion PRCV, which is best when electing more people to the legislature.

PRCV is the best way to use RCV when electing more than one person in a legislature. It has passed in several American cities and will have a big first use in 2024 in Portland, Ore. The short narrative about why PRCV makes so much sense in the United States is tied to unique aspects of our system that were absent in New Zealand:


  • RCV is the best way to elect candidates to executive offices in a multiparty democracy. Unlike many parliamentary democracies, we have numerous elected executive positions like president, governor, and mayor, and RCV is the best way to elect such offices in a multiparty system. A multiparty democracy without RCV for president and governor either means far more controversial winners with low shares of the vote or runoff elections that are unwieldy and would effectively double the power of big money in our elections.
  • PRCV is the only proportional system that works in nonpartisan local elections. Locally, the massive majority of city elections are nonpartisan. If we want to have a proportional system up and down the ballot, proportional RCV is the only way to go in most local elections.
  • We need to accommodate independent voters and candidates. We have growing numbers of committed unaffiliated voters, including voters getting registered, and independent candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King have been far more likely to break through and win as unaffiliated candidates than with a minor-party label.

Republican Women Champion Nikki Haley

Courtesy: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Mel Barclay of The 19th writes how Nikki Haley is the chosen one for Republican women, especially with their disdain for their party’s top candidate, Donald Trump. Republican women are urging Haley to stay in the race while they condemn the GOP for pushing her out. The party’s dismissal of the first woman to come close to securing the nomination comes when support is decreasing among women voters. The misogynist antics by the party’s leading candidate and other men of the party are not only alienating the women in the party, but it is stopping progress for women overall.

“I feel like all of this … ‘Nikki Haley’s a RINO, squash her,’ is really just cutting off our nose to spite our face. Because so many of the women I know really like Nikki Haley, even some who may be voting for Trump,” said Sarah Curran, a former political consultant who is now running for a Greenville, South Carolina, statehouse seat. Curran spent years helping recruit candidates to run for office as Republicans, including Republican women. 

“Whether or not you agree with Nikki Haley’s platform, you can’t help but tip your hat to her for being that trailblazer,” said Curran, who also co-authors a newsletter about conservative women. “So, aside from it just being primary politics at its worst, I think we’re really hurting a lot of people who might want to follow in her footsteps. And I think it could really harm recruitment efforts, at least for the immediate future.”

Black Women In Politics Are Breaking Barriers

Courtesy: Ms. Magazine(Left: @councilorvictoria; Right: courtesy RepresentWomen)

Earlier this month, we released our new brief, Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates, where we explored the barriers Black women face when running for office and serving in the political arena. Our research also proposed viable solutions to ensure these barriers no longer exist.

Victoria Pelletier, our National Partnerships Manager, wrote an op-ed featured in Ms. Magazine that addressed the barriers she faced when running and serving in public office. She serves on the Portland, Maine City Council and has faced her own struggles as a public servant. The physical barriers Black women face are coupled with emotional distress and, more often than not,  fear of being unsafe. Victoria amplifies in her op-ed the multiple barriers that need to be removed for Black women to serve in office. These barriers would allow women to feel safe and see themselves as viable politicians working for their communities.

I’m also reminded that as Black women, being part of a government body is to exist in an environment that wasn’t created for us. It is instead an environment designed to oppress us. We need a systems change to amplify our voices and increase our presence in public office, and we can’t do it alone. The essential takeaways highlighted in the brief are the first step towards identifying obstacles that stop us from even considering running for office in the first place, with solutions that will help us work towards a democracy where we are adequately represented in government.

Victoria urges Black women politicians and candidates to care for themselves because their self-care will help sustain themselves in office, even as their fight continues.

Make sure you have a self-care plan. A plan for when your emotional, mental, or physical health is at risk. Use it often if you have access to therapy or other support means. Have conversations with your family. Have conversations with your friends. Talk to other Black women currently serving in office and ask them about their experiences. Understand that many obstacles you face are intentional and have been curated over centuries to marginalize you further. While we’re not a monolith by any means, the experience of being a Black woman in public office is a unique bond we all share.

Democracy Solutions Summit: March 5th — 7th

I am so excited for the Democracy Solutions Summit.  As the only summit to feature all women experts, the virtual event provides an important platform for women in political leadership to discuss viable solutions to build women’s political power and strengthen democracy. It’s also an opportunity for women to see themselves as the thought leaders who provide knowledge and expertise necessary to move our democracy forward. There is still time to register for this year’s Summit. This event is free for all to attend, and we hope to see you join us!

Our 36 women experts (and counting!) include U.S. Representative Mary Peltola, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, former anchor and managing editor of the PBS News Hour Judy Woodruff, Australian MP Kate Chaney, Mexican Senator and President of IPU's Women's Caucus Cynthia López Castro, Political Strategists and Co-founders of Higher Heights for America Kimberly Peeler-Allen & Glynda Carr, legendary pollster Celinda Lake,  leading philanthropists Kathryn Murdoch & Laura Arnold, ranked choice voting leader Sol Mora, RepresentWomen board members Susannah Wellford, Rina Shah, Vandinika Shukla, Amber McReynolds, and many more!

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand & U.S. Senate Candidate Angela Alsobrooks

I have heard U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks speak three times in the last week and have been very impressed with her inspiring and compelling message – she has some tough (male) opposition in the primary but I believe she is by far the best candidate to represent my home state in the Senate. Maryland gets a D on RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index in large part because there are zero women in our Congressional delegation – we can & must do better.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) with U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks (MD)

Pictured with U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks

What’s keeping me busy inside?

I have been enjoying reading, knitting, and eating cheese but I am looking forward to warmer weather and the gardening season ahead!

My amaryllis has been gorgeous this year!

Thanks for reading, and again, hope you’ll log in to be part of the 2024 Democracy Solutions Summit!


Our ally, Latinas Represent, just announced their new season of Lista Workshops. “Lista” in Spanish has many meanings, but Latinas Represent appreciate the sense of bright, smart, or prepared woman more. This virtual series features expert-led sessions offering practical tools, proven strategies, and best practices for navigating the path to elected office. We encourage you to show your support and register for this valuable series!

















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