By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 22, 2017
Happy autumn to everyone in the northern hemisphere!
And happy election weekend to those who will be voting in New Zealand on Saturday and voting in Germany on Sunday. These two nations are of particular interest because they both use a mixed member proportional voting system meaning that officials are chosen both from single-seat districts and from party lists. Voting system expert Matthew Shugart writes a good blog about the elections for those who are interested.
Both countries rank high in women's representation - New Zealand ranks 31st and Germany 21st - because of their voting systems and the voluntary quotas that parties have used. It's also important to note the somewhat higher rate that women get elected from the proportional seats than from the single-seat districts. Look for an update on that contrast next week!
All this talk about elections reminded me of this terrific piece by Patty Lane - a voting system expert from Canada. Please do read the entire piece if you have time as it examines the weaknesses of our system and the benefits of proportional systems - here is a teaser:
Here’s an election-year riddle: What do the democracies of Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., France and Australia all have in common?
These five countries have archaic voting systems that help ensure women aren't equally represented in political decision making. In short, they're all sexist.
Our winner-take-all "First Past the Post" (FPTP) approach to voting suppresses the number of women in office.
I call it "himocracy." Feel free to hashtag the hell out of it.
In this patently unfair system, Canadian women live under a political glass ceiling. Only 25 per cent of our federal representatives are women. This puts us at 47th in the world for female representation, behind Germany, Denmark and Switzerland... oh and Angola, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Australia has the same problem with its “alternative voting” (AV) system.
The graph below shows that the top eight countries in the world for female representation at the highest levels of government use what is called "proportional representation" (PR), versus "winner-take-all" systems in their elections.
There has been a flood of commentary on Hillary Clinton's new book What Happened that I imagine most of you have read and absorbed but I thought you might be interested in listening to the sold-out Politics and Prose event here as we continue to digest the 2016 campaign and build effective strategies that will lead to the first American female president.
Only two governors and five state attorneys general are Democratic women, an acute problem for a party that counts women as a pillar of its base and trumpets the value of diverse representation.
Moving to address the disparity, the Democratic Attorneys General Association gathered here last week and created a committee of current and former attorneys general and other partners to recruit, train and raise money for female candidates. The project is called the 1881 Initiative, named for the first year that a woman sought, unsuccessfully, the office of state attorney general. (Two did, in California and Illinois.) The goal is to ensure that in five years, at least half of the party’s attorneys general will be women.
Kansas, which was the first state with an elected female mayor (Argonia’s Susanna Madora Salter in 1887), ranked first among all states in gender parity in 1993 when Democrat Joan Finney held the governor’s office and Republican Nancy Kassebaum was serving out her final term in the U.S. Senate, according to Representation 2020, a national group pushing for greater representation of women in government.
Most states scored about the same or worse than Kansas. Only New Hampshire, which has an all-female congressional delegation, scored an A.
Cynthia Terrell, Representation 2020’s director, said New Hampshire’s use of multiwinner districts as opposed to single-winner legislative districts like Kansas creates more opportunities for women to gain elected office.
Under a multiwinner system, multiple legislators would be elected from each legislative district. Ten states use this system and women are three times more likely to be elected by it, Terrell said.
“When you don’t create ladders for women gaining more power in a state, then they’re not positioned to run for higher office like governor,” she said.
Terrell said female candidates offer unique perspectives on policy and their absence from a race can affect what policy issues are emphasized.
“In order for American democracy to work, all constituencies and demographic groups need to have a seat at the table,” she said.
Of the 42 people President Donald Trump has nominated as US attorneys, the chief federal prosecutors throughout the country, only one is a woman.The pattern raises the prospect of a shift in how the nation's laws would be enforced and underscores Trump's broader lack of diversity in appointments, starting at the top with his Cabinet, which is dominated by white men.
The Emmy Awards offers a fascinating contrast to the story on US Attorney nominees and illustrates the clear impact that "categories" for male and female performers have on the outcomes - it's hard for many to wrap their heads around categories/quotas/targets for women in government but it's a norm in the entertainment industry...
P.S. Multi-seat districts and ranked choice voting get a good plug in another great book out this week entitled One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported