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Minnesota Ranks 4th in the Nation in Electing Women to State Legislatures

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Unlike its Upper Midwestern neighbors, Minnesota continues to be among the nation's leading states in electing women to state legislative office, according an analysis by Smart Politics of data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For the second straight election cycle, 34.8 percent of Representatives and Senators in St. Paul are female (70 of 201), which ranks as the 4th highest percentage in the nation. Only Colorado (40.0 percent), New Hampshire (37.3 percent), and Vermont (37.2 percent) elected a larger percentage of women to their respective state legislatures.

Minnesota' Upper Midwestern neighbors, however, not only trail the Gopher State, but also the national average of 24.2 percent. Iowa has the second lowest gender imbalance in the region at 22.7 percent (#28 in the nation), followed by Wisconsin at 22.0 percent (#31), South Dakota at 19.0 percent (#38), and North Dakota at 15.6 percent (#43).

The number of women holding the 7,382 legislative seats at state capitols nationwide has been consistently on the rise - increasing from 1,663 in 2005, to 1,729 in 2007, to 1,789 in 2009 after the latest election cycle.

Female State Legislators in the United States, 2005-2009

Year
Number
Percent
2009
1,789
24.2
2008
1,751
23.7
2007
1,729
23.4
2006
1,667
22.6
2005
1,663
22.5
Note: table compiled by Smart Politics with data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Not surprisingly, women legislators were elected into office much more frequently in traditionally Democratic states.

In fact, in the 2008 election cycle, the ten states with the highest percentage of female legislators were states carried by Barack Obama. Moreover, a staggering 20 of the top 23 states with the highest percentage of women holding legislative seats were "Obama states."

On the flip side, 8 of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of female representation in state legislatures came from traditionally Republican and "McCain states," including 14 of the lowest 16 states.

States with the Highest Percentage of Female Legislators, 2009

Rank
State
Percent
2008 Pres. vote
1
Colorado
40.0
Obama
2
New Hampshire
37.3
Obama
3
Vermont
37.2
Obama
4
Minnesota
34.8
Obama
5
Hawaii
32.9
Obama
6
Washington
32.0
Obama
7
Nevada
31.7
Obama
8
Connecticut
31.6
Obama
9
Maryland
31.4
Obama
10
New Mexico
30.4
Obama
11
Arizona
30.0
McCain
12
New Jersey
29.2
Obama
13
Kansas
29.1
McCain
14
Maine
29.0
Obama
15
Oregon
28.9
Obama
16
California
27.5
Obama
17
Illinois
27.1
Obama
18
Massachusetts
26.0
Obama
18
Montana
26.0
McCain
20
North Carolina
25.9
Obama
21
Michigan
25.0
Obama
22
New York
24.5
Obama
23
Delaware
24.2
Obama
24
Florida
23.8
Obama
24
Idaho
23.8
McCain
24
Texas
23.8
McCain
27
Arkansas
23.7
McCain
28
Iowa
22.7
Obama
29
Rhode Island
22.1
Obama
29
Utah
22.1
McCain
31
Indiana
22.0
Obama
31
Wisconsin
22.0
Obama
33
Missouri
20.8
McCain
34
Ohio
20.5
Obama
35
Nebraska
20.4
McCain
36
Alaska
20.0
McCain
37
Georgia
19.1
McCain
38
South Dakota
19.0
McCain
39
Tennessee
18.2
McCain
40
Wyoming
17.8
McCain
41
West Virginia
16.4
McCain
42
Virginia
15.7
Obama
43
North Dakota
15.6
McCain
44
Louisiana
15.3
McCain
45
Kentucky
15.2
McCain
46
Pennsylvania
14.6
Obama
47
Mississippi
14.4
McCain
48
Alabama
12.9
McCain
49
Oklahoma
11.4
McCain
50
South Carolina
10.0
McCain
Total
 
24.2
 

Not only were Republican states much less likely to produce larger percentages of female legislators, but those legislators who were elected throughout the nation have trended even more towards the Democratic Party.

From 2006 through 2009, Republican female legislators have decreased not only by percentage, but also in raw numbers. Overall, female members of the Republican Party elected to state legislatures have dropped by 20.9 percent since 2006 (36.4 to 28.8 percent).

Women State Legislators by Political Party, 2006-2009

Party
2006
2007
2008
2009
DEM
1,045 (62.7%)
1,181 (68.3%)
1,199 (68.5%)
1,260 (70.4%)
GOP
606 (36.4%)
533 (30.8%)
537 (30.7%)
515 (28.8%)
Other*
18 (1.1%)
15 (0.9%)
15 (0.9%)
14 (0.8%)
Note: 'Other' includes non-partisan (Nebraska) female legislators as well as those belonging to third parties.

Minnesota has not always been among the very top leaders in electing women to state legislative office. In 2006, the Gopher State was ranked just 13th in the nation, with 29.9 percent of its legislative seats held by women. Iowa and the Dakotas, however, have consistently been ranked in the bottom half during each of the past five years - never reaching the 23 percent mark.

Women State Legislators by State, 2005-2009

State
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
Alabama
10.0
11.0
12.9
12.9
12.9
Alaska
18.3
18.3
21.7
21.7
20.0
Arizona
33.3
33.3
33.3
33.3
30.0
Arkansas
16.3
16.3
20.7
20.7
23.7
California
30.8
30.8
27.5
27.5
27.5
Colorado
33.0
33.0
35.0
36.0
40.0
Connecticut
29.4
29.4
28.3
28.3
31.6
Delaware
33.9
33.9
30.6
30.6
24.2
Florida
23.8
23.8
23.1
23.1
23.8
Georgia
18.6
18.6
19.5
19.5
19.1
Hawaii
28.9
30.2
32.9
32.9
32.9
Idaho
27.6
27.6
22.9
23.8
23.8
Illinois
27.7
27.1
27.1
27.1
27.1
Indiana
16.7
16.7
18.7
18.7
22.0
Iowa
20.0
20.0
22.7
22.7
22.7
Kansas
32.7
32.7
29.1
29.1
29.1
Kentucky
12.3
11.6
12.3
13.0
15.2
Louisiana
16.6
16.6
17.4
14.6
15.3
Maine
23.1
23.1
30.6
31.7
29.0
Maryland
34.0
34.6
32.4
31.4
31.4
Massachusetts
24.5
24.5
24.5
25.5
26.0
Michigan
20.3
20.3
19.6
19.6
25.0
Minnesota
29.9
29.9
34.8
34.8
34.8
Mississippi
12.6
12.6
13.8
14.4
14.4
Missouri
21.3
21.3
19.3
20.3
20.8
Montana
24.7
24.7
24.7
24.7
26.0
Nebraska
24.5
24.5
18.4
18.4
20.4
Nevada
33.3
33.3
30.2
30.2
31.7
New Hampshire
30.7
30.4
35.8
35.6
37.3
New Jersey
15.8
18.3
19.2
28.3
29.2
New Mexico
31.3
31.3
30.4
30.4
30.4
New York
23.1
22.6
24.1
23.6
24.5
North Carolina
22.9
22.9
25.9
26.5
25.9
North Dakota
16.3
16.3
17.7
17.0
15.6
Ohio
19.7
18.9
16.7
17.4
20.5
Oklahoma
14.8
14.8
12.8
12.8
11.4
Oregon
27.8
27.8
31.1
32.2
28.9
Pennsylvania
12.6
13.0
14.6
14.6
14.6
Rhode Island
16.8
16.8
19.5
19.5
22.1
South Carolina
8.8
8.8
8.8
8.8
10.0
South Dakota
16.2
16.2
17.1
17.1
19.0
Tennessee
17.4
17.4
16.7
17.4
18.2
Texas
19.9
19.9
19.3
19.3
23.8
Utah
19.2
19.2
17.3
19.2
22.1
Vermont
33.3
33.3
37.8
38.3
37.2
Virginia
15.0
15.7
17.1
16.4
15.7
Washington
33.3
33.3
32.7
35.4
32.0
West Virginia
15.7
15.7
14.2
14.2
16.4
Wisconsin
25.8
25.8
22.7
22.7
22.0
Wyoming
14.4
15.6
23.3
23.3
17.8
Total
22.5
22.6
23.4
23.7
24.2

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1 Comment


  • Interesting analysis. There's even better news.

    Forty two percent of higher offices in Minnesota are occupied by women. Minnesota today has a female Senator and two of eight members of Congress are women. Three of four constitutional officers are women. Of the women in higher office, two-thirds are Democrats.

  • Leave a comment


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