By LEE DAVIDSON | The Salt Lake Tribune
A national group that seeks gender parity in politics gives Utah an "F" grade for how many women it elects.
Representation2020 ranks Utah 46th among the 50 states for women's representation. It is one of 33 states that received a grade of "D" or "F" in the group's latest rankings, released this week.
The group uses a "gender parity index" that rates women's electoral success on a scale of 0 (no women in major elected office) to 100 (women hold all such offices). It said its goal of gender parity is a score of 50 and an A grade.
Utah received a score of 9.5, about half the national average score of 18.6.
The highest score in the nation was 55.4 in New Hampshire (with an "A" grade, and women holding a majority of major offices). The lowest was a 5.8 in Mississippi.
The group noted that only one member of Utah's congressional delegation — Republican Rep. Mia Love — is a woman. Four of the 15 Republicans and Democrats running in a special election to replace retiring Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are women.
None of Utah's statewide elected officials is a woman. Utah has had only one female governor in its history — Olene Walker, a former lieutenant governor who assumed the top office when then-Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned to join President George W. Bush's Cabinet.
Also, 20 of Utah's 104 state legislators — or 19 percent — are women. That is up from 14 percent in 1993, the group said. But it's down from an all-time high of 23.1 percent in 2001.
Representation2020 argues that Utah could increase the number of women elected to the Legislature by switching from single-winner districts to multi-winner districts.
Such districts — which elect perhaps five legislators instead of just one winner — allow minorities or minority parties to win a seat or two with a small percentage of the overall vote, especially in areas that are now one-party strongholds.
"To win gender parity in our lifetimes we must pivot to system reforms that include gender targets for PACs [political action committees] and political parties, so more women run; fair representation voting systems, so more women win; and updated legislative practices, so more women can serve and lead," said Cynthia Richie Terrell, Represenation2020 founder and director.