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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 29, 2017


Dear friends,

There was a terrific interview with Nadya Okamoto the 19 year old college student who is running for city council in Cambridge, MA - her passion for public service and for ranked choice voting is beyond inspiring!

Representation2020 has been digging into the data in the 10 states that have multi-seat state legislative districts. Seven of the 10 states elect only two members per district but 3 states - MD, NH, and WV - elect 3 or more legislators in their multi-seat districts. These 3 states use both single-seat districts and multi-seat districts which provides a great illustration of the positive impact of multi-seat districts on women's representation as shown in the chart below.

In the Maryland state legislature, women hold a third of house seats and at least one seat in two-thirds of the multi-winner district used to elect them while women in West Virginia's multi-winner state legislative districts win twice as often as in the the state's single winner districts.
Single winner districts for the House of Representatives disadvantage women candidates. Just one woman is elected to the House from the 40 single-winner districts in my state of Maryland and the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia combined.
This data, along with compelling evidence that ranked choice voting elects more women, must inform our strategies not only at the state legislative level but also at the city and federal level.

Stellar ally Kristin Eberhard had a great piece entitled "How to End Gerrymandering for Good" which discusses the proposal to ranked choice voting in multi-seat districts for the House of Representatives - a move that would indeed end gerrymandering and create multi-seat districts and open seats where women can run and win.

Representation2020 democracy fellow Toni Gingerelli explores the positive impact of multi-seat districts/party lists vs single seat districts in this great piece on the recent New Zealand elections - stay tuned for her analysis on the German election results when they become available.

I am pleased to report that an article that I was interviewed for last week in the Kansas City Star generated a thoughtful letter which I agree with completely - that may be a first:

Election fix

The Star’s story about the crowded field for the Kansas governor’s race brings up important points about the shortcomings in our election system. (Sept. 21, 8A, “Where are the women? Crowded field for Kansas governor is a men’s club”)

There is no room in our elections for more than a few candidates because of the winner-take-all system. In legislatures, the majority ends up being overrepresented as well.

The article states that multiwinner districts such as the system in New Hampshire will elect more women. However, the system there has a significant flaw in that each voter in those districts has as many votes as there are seats. A party with a slim majority in a district will win every seat by voting the party line, shutting out the opposition.

However, that is not to say that multiwinner districts should not be used. In fact, a simple solution to that problem would be to give each voter a single transferable vote in a multiwinner district. This would lead to election results that better reflect the diverse makeup of every district. The majority would still win the majority of seats, but the opposition would also get a share. To paraphrase election-reform advocate Cynthia Terrell, this would give all constituencies and demographic groups a seat a the table.

Richard Pund

Another terrific piece in Fortune reports on the UN Secretary General's call for gender quotas to empower women in political office and in other arenas. I hope everyone will listen to this interview that is the clearest call for intentional 'mechanisms' to address the under-representation that I have heard from anyone. I know Americans are leery of this language but there is no disputing that quotas deliver representation.

If you want to reach any level of gender parity you must take affirmative action. That's what the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres told The CEO Initiative conference hosted by Fortune and Time on Monday.

"I am very much a believer in quota systems," Guterres said. "I would be very much in favor in quotas in the boardrooms of companies and in other aspects because this will not happen naturally. I was reading a very interesting article a few days ago speaking about the way to gender equality and it said, "the good news is that we're moving in that direction, the bad news is that it will take 300 years.' So we really need to introduce some mechanisms into the different systems to make it happen."

Guterres has pledged to have complete gender parity for his appointees to the positions of Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General. Since taking office on January 1 this year, the former Portuguese prime minister says he has appointed 17 women and 15 men to the highest political levels of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General said he has long been an advocate of quotas: "I introduced quotas into my political party 30 years ago. I tried to do it in the parliament but we had a minority government and the whole opposition voted against it. We lost that battle but I think we need to have some affirmative action on this because in my experience decisions are better when you have an equilibrium between women and men."
The HeForShe Impact Report is a fascinating deep dive into what an organized campaign for gender parity looks and sounds like - Americans must embrace the idea of targets and enforcement mechanisms to propel women into leadership positions across all sectors.
The Rochester City Newspaper ran a piece by Sarah Kliff and Soo Oh entitled 'Where are the Women" that reviews the standard socio-political reasons often cited that keep women from running for office - all of which are true but most of which are impossible to fix without a deep transformation of the fabric of governance.

My friends at To The Contrary continue to inspire me - here is a terrific photo to end this week's missive!



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