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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation November 17th, 2023

Dear Readers,

The results are in! In the aftermath of last Tuesday's elections, a resounding chorus of success echoes through the political landscape, underscored by the impactful role of ranked choice voting (RCV) in advancing gender parity. With several key races called and other big announcements made, let’s reflect on what this week’s news means for women’s representation around the United States.

Ranked Choice Voting Facilitates Wins for Women in Local Races

Outreach Manager Alissa Bombardier Shaw and Research Manager Steph Scaglia wrote an op-ed celebrating significant wins for women during last Tuesday’s general election.

In RCV-viable city council races, women consisted of roughly 40% of the total candidates and won an impressive 68% of the seats. In addition, under RCV, Cambridge, Massachusets, Portland, Maine, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and New York City, New York (NYC) elected woman-majority councils, and in NYC, the majority of those women are women of color (for the second time in a row)...

For the first time in history, St. Paul’s council and Minnetonka’s council will be all women. What do these two cities have in common? Both use ranked choice voting for their elections. (If you’re curious what the St. Paul city council looked like before it started using RCV, check out this news archive.)

In Santa Fe, New Mexico’s city council race, we saw how RCV can help level the playing field. Despite being well outspent by her primary opponent, Alma Castro won over 50% of votes after 3 rounds of vote tabulation, with second and third-choice rankings playing a crucial role. Kathleen Rivera, eliminated in the second round, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the “woman vote” played a key role: numerous Rivera women voters said they wanted to vote a woman into office, thus ranking Castro second. 

Following the November 7th elections, women now make up 52% of RCV-elected city councils (154 of 296 seats in 40 cities). The impact of RCV on women’s representation is undeniable.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger Is Running For Governor of Virginia 

New York Times congressional correspondent Luke Broadwater wrote a fantastic article about Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s decision not to seek re-election to Congress. Instead, the representative for Virginia's 7th District has launched a campaign to run for governor, hoping to succeed Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. The former CIA officer’s decision to run for Virginia’s highest seat in the statewide executive could prove to be the perfect opportunity to improve gender parity across all levels of the state’s government. If Spanberger wins and a woman fills her congressional seat, it would be a historic achievement for women in Virginia politics.  

 According to  RepresentWomen’s 2023 Gender Parity Index, Virginia currently recieves a D and is ranked 28th in the country for gender balance. Although representation rates are fairly low across all levels of government, US Congress and statewide executive are their weakest links.   

Ms. Spanberger, 44, is seen as among the strongest Democratic contenders to succeed Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who is term-limited. Her decision not to seek re-election to Congress leaves House Democrats scrambling to hold a seat that is regularly in play for both parties….

Ms. Spanberger is the first candidate to announce a run for Virginia governor. Her early announcement is intended to allow a successor to build a campaign for the 2024 House race, which Democrats believe would provide a more favorable electorate than a special election... 

Ms. Spanberger currently holds the central and Northern Virginia seat formerly occupied by Representative Eric Cantor, a Republican and former House majority leader. He was defeated in a primary in 2014 by a Tea Party-aligned Republican, Dave Brat, who then lost to Ms. Spanberger in 2018...

The district’s new boundaries, and the results of last week’s elections in the state, have Democrats optimistic about holding the seat.

“Virginians have consistently made clear — including just last week — that they want leaders focused on protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, growing the middle class and delivering results for working families,” said Justin Chermol, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “That’s why the Seventh District will stay in Democratic hands in 2024.”

Leuitant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom of Alaska Announces Run for Congress

This week, reporter Sarah Fortinsky from The Hill covered Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom’s announcement to run for Alaska’s one seat in the House of Representatives. This is an exciting race to watch because, in 2022, Alaska used ranked choice voting for the first time. The results of that election reinforced our findings that RCV removes barriers for diverse women to run and win. We are looking forward to following Alaska’s second use of ranked choice voting statewide!  

Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom announced on Tuesday that she is running for the state’s at-large House seat, becoming the second Republican to formally enter the race to unseat Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska).

Dahlstrom joins Republican Nick Begich, who announced his campaign for the seat in July, launching his third attempt to defeat Peltola…

“I’ve dedicated my career advocating for our military and veterans, protecting our families by locking up violent criminals, and developing Alaska’s natural resources, energy, and jobs,” [Dahlstrom] said. “Talk is cheap, results matter. Alaska needs Washington D.C. to stop working against us, and no one will fight harder for Alaska’s way of life than me…”

 Peltola, though a Democrat, has proved a difficult candidate to beat in a state that has consistently voted Republican in every presidential election for the last several decades.

In 2022, she won the endorsements of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and much of the late Young’s staff and family. She is one of the only pro-oil Democrats in Congress and has focused her campaign on state issues, rather than nationalizing the races.

“Mary gets that this isn’t her seat, it’s Alaska’s sole seat in the House. It’s up to her to prove to Alaskans every two years that she’s the right person to fight for them in DC. And she’s focused on doing just that – delivering for Alaska,” Elisa Rios, campaign manager for Mary Peltola for Congress, told The Hill.  

Voter Choice Act Reintroduced in the Senate

This Wednesday, we celebrated the reintroduction of the Voter Choice Act. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (CO) and co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King (ME), the act provides $40 million in federal matching grants, covering up to 50% of the cost for local and state governments adopting ranked choice voting (RCV). Ranked choice voting has won in 27 city ballot measures this year, and the Voter Choice Act aims to support its expansion. This act represents a data-driven approach crucial to enhancing women's presence and leadership in politics because RCV facilitates opportunities for women to run and win by eliminating vote splitting among female candidates and creating more cost-effective and positive campaigns.

Will Mantell of FairVote reports 

“The Voter Choice Act is a sensible way to support the fastest-growing nonpartisan voting reform in the country,” said Deb Otis, Director of Research and Policy at FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for better elections. “Ranked choice voting makes our elections better by giving voters better choices and rewarding candidates who run issues-driven campaigns. While most cities actually save money by using RCV to replace runoffs or two-round contests, the Voter Choice Act will give more Americans the opportunity to try RCV – by helping to offset any voter education and implementation costs with approaches that further boost election security and voter confidence...”

Voters can ask their Senators to support the Voter Choice Act using this link. 

New Report Finds Shocking Lack of Representation for Women in Journalism 

The kinds of stories told are directly impacted by who is telling them. Diversifying the journalism field is essential for a fair account of current and historical events, in the media and in politics.

An article from Ms. Magazine by the International Women’s Media Foundation covers new findings from a report on women journalists entitled “The Missing Perspectives of Women in News.” Commissioned by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and authored by Luba Kassova, the report explores women's representation in journalism in various countries. The findings reveal a concerning stagnation and perhaps even a  reversal of women's representation in journalism in the 21st century. 

 Thank you to our wonderful partner Ms. Magazine for being one of the few voices in the mainstream that tell the stories of women and women in politics! And if you are looking for a woman elected or expert to interview, quote, or source, our Women Experts in Democracy Directory is available to you free of charge.

The report finds that women’s representation in the news has flatlined—if not reversed—in the 21st century. This alarming marginalization is clear in all areas of the news media: Women are underrepresented in newsroom leadership, gender equality stories are going untold, and men remain the vast majority of quoted experts and sources.

To address the challenges uncovered by this research, the report offers 50 evidence-based recommendations and a checklist for newsrooms to use as they work to increase women’s representation, challenge biases and work to achieve gender parity. With these recommendations, the journalism industry can further its work to uplift women’s voices and create a more diverse, free global news landscape.

 Next New Jersey Legislature Will Have Even Fewer Women 

Based on the results of last week’s election cycle, New Jersey will move further away from gender-balance governance in 2024. In an article published in the New Jersey Monitor, Sophie Nieto-Munoz conveyed that there will be one less woman serving in the New Jersey State Senate and the State Assembly. This lost progress is deeply concerning.

Currently, only approximately one-third of elected positions across all levels of government in New Jersey are currently held by women. In our 2023 Gender Parity Index, New Jersey received a “D” rating in regard to women’s representation in politics and is ranked 34th out of the 50 states, indicating how far the state has to go to achieve gender parity. 

In order to create lasting change, we recommend that New Jersey invests in structural reforms that are proven to advance women’s representation. By implementing systems-level solutions such as ranked choice voting, multi-member districts, and proportional representation, it will be far more feasible to maintain gains in women’s representation over time.

A recent study by the center found women hold just 30% of elected positions across all levels of government in New Jersey. The state Legislature has the highest proportion of female representation, while the state’s congressional delegation has the lowest — two out of 14 members. Women hold less than a third of municipal offices statewide.

Gender parity in the Legislature is worse when broken down by party, Sinzdak noted. In the coming session, female representation will again be concentrated in the Democratic Party, where women make up 40% of the caucus. On the Republican side, that number is less than 20%, according to the center.

Sinzdak said women face multiple hurdles in the political world, like typically being seen as their families’ primary caretakers and being subject to harassment on the campaign trail and in office…

Women in politics aren’t just good for representation, but they also bring different life experiences and perspectives, Sinzdak said. Women legislators are more likely to build consensus across the aisle and bring underrepresented voices into their policymaking, she added.

“The bottom line is, as long as our Legislature is not quite reflective of the population it serves, then we’re going to be not fully realizing our constituents’ needs,” she said. 

Our executive director, Cynthia Richie Terrell participated in the Reykjavik Global Forum in Iceland this week. Highlights from the Forum included a moving address from co-chair Ashley Judd, a conversation with Icelandic prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and women leaders from other political parties in Iceland, a bust of Vigdis Finnbogadottir - the first woman to be democratically elected head of state in the world & chair emerita of the Council of Women World Leaders, a terrific talk with Martin Chungong who serves as secretary-general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a great connection with Canadian member of parliament Leah Taylor Roy who is chair of the women's caucus in Canada, an amazing session with Running Start alums led by the always-impressive Susannah Wellford, a moving tribute to the organizers of the Icelandic women’s strike for equality in 1975 that inspired the ‘women’s day off’ held last month, and an incredible array of presentations from Women Political Leaders on its Representation Matters report, women heads of state, women's rights funders, and strategists. Here’s to more gatherings and more conversations to advance women’s representation & equality.

With the general election now over, the presidential election is now less than a year away! Many Republicans have put their hat in the ring for the presidential nomination. How would you rank your preferences for the current Republican primary ticket? Let us know with this poll!

That’s all for this week! Have a wonderful weekend.

-The RepresentWomen Team


Thank you for attending the official launch of the Women’s Power Collaborative! We’re so excited to see this one-of-a-kind platform come to life and look forward to many collaboration, networking, and resource-sharing opportunities with all of you.

If you missed the launch, don’t worry! You can learn more here!

We look forward to chatting with you and continuing to work together in the fight to build women’s political power.

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