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Women Shut Out of Elected Office in the South

As campaign costs rise, the people who have been traditionally shut out of the political process, women, low-income voters, and people of color, will continue to find themselves at a disadvantage. When money dominates the political scene, the good-ole-boy network flourishes. Consider that:

Women were the majority-voting block at 52% of voters on Election Day in 2000. Yet women are sorely missing from our elected offices. Women make up only*:

  • 13% of the U.S. Senate
  • 13.5% of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • 0% of U.S. Executive Branch (since 1776)
  • 10% of Governors in fifty states
  • 22% of state legislatures (in North Carolina only 18%)

*From www.gendergap.com

According to the data from the Center for American Women and Politics, women in the Southeastern U.S. are much less likely to be in elected office than in other regions in the United States.

Washington state ranks first in percentage of women in its state legislature with 38.8%. Yet in the states where Democracy South is working, from Kentucky to Florida to Louisiana, women are much less likely to be elected to their state legislatures. Unfortunately, the "good-ole-boy" system remains at the helm of political machinery across the country and often maintains its position through the control of the campaign finance system.

No southern state ranks in the top 20 states for the percentage of women represented in the their state legislatures. Of the 5 states with the worst representation of women, 4 are in the South:

State Rank % of Women in State Legislature
Alabama 50 7.9%
Arkansas 45 13.3%
Florida 21 23.8%
Georgia 31 20.3%
Kentucky 47 10.9%
Louisiana 39 16.0%
Mississippi 46 12.6%
North Carolina 32 18.8%
South Carolina 48 10.6%
Tennessee 40 15.9%
Virginia 38 16.4%
West Virginia 34 18.7%

Understanding why this trend continues more than 80 years after women were given the power of the vote means understanding the power of money in elections as a way of keeping qualified candidates from running for office.

For more information: www.gendergap.com/elections/election2000/wmn2000.htm


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