Women Winning

Electoral Reforms Drive Change

Representation2020 supports and works with organizations focused on changing cultural norms and fighting gender stereotypes. Our mission, however, is to reform the institutions and structures holding women back. Recruiting, training, and funding female candidates will be more effective once the electoral process stops systemically disadvantaging women at each level of government.

Below are suggestions on how to dismantle these barriers for women candidates.

 

Ranked Choiced Voting  Fair representation voting  Fair Representation Act 

Click on a topic to begin.

Voting Systems

The U.S. Constitution provides few guidelines for how we elect our representatives, and some voting rules and standards have changed over time. Yet while other countries have embraced contemporary voting techniques that improve representation, the U.S. system is past due for modernization.

Read more about how parity is over a century away with our current system and what we propose instead.

 

What We Have: Winner-Take-All Elections

Most of the U.S. uses single-winner, winner-take-all elections. This means everyone in a community votes for their favorite candidate, the candidate with the most votes wins, and then that person represents the entire community.

If Candidate A gets 51 percent of the vote and Candidate B gets 49 percent, Candidate A represents everyone and those who voted for Candidate B get no representation.

Research shows this type of election disadvantages women - especially women of color. It will take multiple generations for women to reach parity if we keep this antiquated system.

 

Here is how winner-take-all elections are disproportionately bad for women candidates:

 

infogram_0_winner_take_all_issuesWinner-take-all Issues//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?t5Mtext/javascript

 

 

What We Need: Fair Representation Voting

The alternative is fair representation voting, which represents communities proportionally through:

Ranked choice voting - voters rank candidates in order of choice

Multi-winner districts - districts represented by more than one person. 

 

Here is how fair representation elections help level the playing field for women candidates:

 

infogram_0_fair_rep_voting_for_womenFair Rep Voting for Women//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?qattext/javascript

 

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)

Under ranked choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. They mark their favorite candidate as first choice and then indicate their second and additional back-up choices in order of preference. Voters may rank as many candidates as they want, knowing that indicating a lower ranked candidate will never hurt a more preferred candidate.

Candidates do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second and even third choices. 

When used as an "instant runoff" to elect a single candidate like a mayor or a governor - as seen above - RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters. When used as a form of fair representation voting to elect more than one candidate like a city council, state legislature, or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.

 

How Does RCV Work in Different Elections? 

 

Multi-Member Districts

The U.S. uses single-winner districts to elect the House of Representatives, which means each congressional district has one Member of Congress. Some state legislatures and city councils use multi-member districts, where multiple people represent the same district. We propose that all legislative bodies adopt multi-member districts to better represent the opinions, diversity, and values of their constituents. 

Compared to winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting in multi-member contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics.

Multi-winner districts increase women's representation for two key reasons:

  • Voters tend to balance their tickets
  • Political parties seek to appeal to as many voters as they can

Amy (2002), Zimmerman (1994), and Troustine (2008) find that in the multi-winner environment voters are more likely to vote for male and female candidates to balance their choices, meaning parties have more incentive to run female candidates. This leads to more recruitment and support of female candidates, and therefore more women in office. 

 

 

What We Can Do: The Fair Representation Act 

The Fair Representation Act (HR 3057) gives voters of all backgrounds and all political stripes the power to elect House Members who reflect their views and will work constructively with others in Congress.

Under the Fair Representation Act, there will be more choices and several winners elected in each district. Congress will remain the same size, but districts will be larger, each electing 3, 4, or 5 winners. Voters will be free to rank their choices without fear of "spoilers." No district will be “red” or “blue.” Every district will fairly reflect the spectrum of voters.

Voters are clamoring for change. The Fair Representation Act is effective, constitutional, and grounded in American traditions. It will ensure that every vote counts, all voices are heard, and everyone has an equal opportunity to serve in elected office. 

 

Read the Bill  Learn More 

Fair Representation Voting in Local Elections

Cities and counties across the U.S. have adopted fair representation voting techniques in order to improve their electoral process, and it has led to increased voter engagement. A report co-authored by FairVote and the New America Foundation found that racial minority populations prefer ranked choice voting and find it easy to use, and that ranked choice voting increased turnout by 2.7 times in San Francisco.

 

Learn more about which U.S. cities have adopted fair representation voting 

 

Executive Positions

Mayors, City Managers

While the ideal voting system to elect women is ranked choice voting with multi-member districts, this is not possible for executive positions that only have one winner, such as mayor and city manager. For these elections, it is still important that communities use ranked choice voting because it can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups like women and racial and ethnic minorities. 

This update is necessary because women are severely underrepresented at the mayoral level. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., women serve as mayors in only 19.

infogram_0_copy_rep2020_mayors_newRep2020 mayors (new)//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?9WXtext/javascript

 

 

Legislative Bodies

City Councils, County Councils, School Boards, etc.

Some city councils and school boards use single winner districts, where one person represents all constituents in a district. Others use two-member or multi-member districts, where multiple people represent the same district. We propose that all legislative bodies adopt multi-member districts to better represent the opinions, diversity, and values of their constituents. 

Compared to winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting in multi-member contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics.

Multi-member districts increase women's representation for two key reasons:

  • Voters tend to balance their tickets
  • Political parties seek to appeal to as many voters as they can

Amy (2002), Zimmerman (1994), and Troustine (2008) find that in the multi-winner environment voters are more likely to vote for male and female candidates to balance their choices, meaning parties have more incentive to run female candidates. This leads to more recruitment and support of female candidates, and therefore more women in office. 

Political parties are less likely to heavily recruit and campaign for local elections as opposed to state and federal elections, but voters are more likely to balance their ticket and vote for a woman or person of color for a multi-member district at any level of government.

Current representation supports this research: Among the largest 100 cities in the United States, the average percentage of women on city councils with only at-large seats is 41% while the average percentage of women on city councils with only single member district seats is 28%. 

 

infogram_0_9c0550f9-0e2f-4f2d-819c-4550518bbc25Rep2020 At-large vs. Single Winner Women's Representation//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?PfWtext/javascript

 

Fair Representation Voting in State Elections

State Executives

Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc.

Women serve as governors in only six states, making it one of the most underrepresented positions. Only 39 women have ever served as governor of a state, and 25 states have never had a woman governor. Seventy-five of the 312 elected statewide executive positions (24%) are currently filled by women. 

Fifty-six percent of all women governors have been Democrats, but four of the six current female governors are Republican. Additionally, 56 percent of the current elected statewide executive women are Republican. This is inconsistent with the general trend that Republican women are especially underrepresented in elected office.

There are currently 33 Republican governors, which may be a reason for relatively high number of Republican women compared to Democratic women, as well as the low number of women overall. Since 2010, Republicans have taken control of gubernatorial elections. The low numbers of Republican women in office at every level of government suggests this Republican surge has not helped more women get elected governor. 

Only two women of color have ever served as governor of a state, including Susana Martinez who is currently the governor of New Mexico. Only 2.2 percent of all elected statewide executive offices are filled by women of color.

Ranked choice voting would help to represent states more accurately and to dismantle the overwhelming incumbent advantage that puts women on an unequal playing field.

  

State Legislatures

Some states have incorporated multi-member districts into their state legislatures, and Representation2020 believes every state should move in this direction. When districts are represented by more that one person, constituents are more likely to have representation for their divergent views, and elected officials are more likely to come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse views.

Here is the ranking of all U.S. states based on women's representation in their state legislature:

 

State_Leg_Rankings.png 

Fair Representation Voting in Federal Elections

Other countries provide a model for how to elect more women

The U.S. ranks behind 100 other countries in terms of women's representation in elected office. What do those 100 countries have in common? The all use some form of fair representation voting. 

For example, the Australian parliament contains two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives - just like in the U.S. Voters elect the Senate through a form of proportional representation, while the House uses a winner-take-all system.

The graph below shows the stark difference in women's representation between the two chambers and their different electoral structures. The graph also shows the U.S. House of Representatives, which has consistently lagged behind the proportionally represented Australian Senate for over 70 years. 

 

infogram_0_copy_women_in_australian_congressCopy: Women in Australian Congress//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?Cw0text/javascript

 

How can the U.S. get back on track? The Fair Representation Act

The Fair Representation Act, introduced in Congress June 2017, would create multi-member congressional districts and implement ranked choice voting for congressional elections - all across the country. 

This bill would restructure the House of Representatives so it could accurately reflect and represent the people of the U.S.

 

Learn more about the Fair Representation Act 

Join us in turning public passion for gender parity into action and results