Women Politicians Take The Hit In Redistricting

As a variety of political groups struggle to get more women running for and into political office, the attempt to grow the ranks of women in politics is hitting a pretty deliberate roadblock.

Male politicians are trying to force them right back out.

It’s not a partisan issue, either.  According to an analysis done by Talking Points Memo, female politicians have taken the brunt of the damage from the 2012 redistricting proposals, regardless of which party was in charge of redrawing maps.  When it came to creating less incumbent-friendly districts or pitting incumbents against another incumbent, the candidates involved were often female, even despite the fact that there were so many fewer of them in office to begin with.

TPM points to North Carolina, where Democratic women, especially leaders, are forced to fight against each other for new districts.  “In all, 10 of 25 Democratic women lawmakers in the state were either ‘double bunked’ — forced into a district with another incumbent — or drawn into heavily Republican districts,” writes Sarah Libby.

Democratic women in New Jersey have had the same issue. “In New Jersey, where women accounted for 28 percent of the 2011 Legislature, they made up 70 percent of the legislators who retired as a result of redistricting.”

But in Colorado, it’s Republican women who took the hit. “Take Colorado, for example,” says Libby, “which has the highest percentage (40) of female lawmakers in the county and where Democrats essentially controlled the redistricting process via a special commission. ‘Three of the nine Republican women in the House will have to run in a primary with another GOP incumbent. Two of them, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Rep. B.J. Nikkel, the majority whip, are in leadership,’ according to the Denver Post.”

Minnesota saw the same issue.  With the Republican party in charge of redistricting, many of the new incumbent vs incumbent matchups, such as John Marty (no relation) vs. Mary Jo McGuire.  Marty ended up with the DFL (Democratic Party) endorsement, leaving McGuire without a district.

It happened repeatedly across Minnesota, with women losing or backing out of a majority of the battles.  Even Republican women were put up against rivals in their own party, and losing out, such as one of the few Republican legislatures being put up against the House Majority leader.

As Politics in Minnesota wrote, it was no doubt deliberate, and effective.  “Recruiting and electing more women in the predominantly male Minnesota Legislature has been an issue for decades, but the release of the state’s redistricting maps in February has intensified a feeling among some female lawmakers that they are being pushed out of St. Paul. Out of a total of 16 incumbent-on-incumbent matchups as a result of the new political maps, 10 pitted a male incumbent against a female lawmaker. In the four male-versus-female intraparty incumbent pairings that made it all the way to an endorsement contest, only one woman came out the victor.”

We’re already having a difficult time getting women into office.  Now it looks like it’s even harder to keep them there, thanks in part to their male colleagues.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Somewhat surprised, yet not, when I think about it. Women tend to care about things, not having to do with war (testosterone). Here in Texas, Democrats of both sexes, are the target, and they've done it for many, many years. My Congressman's district now runs from Austin into the south Valley -- looks like an inkblot, it is so convoluted -- all, designed for the purpose of diluting the Democratic vote. This is a destruction of democracy, but repubs will win anyway they can.

Howard Evans
Howard Evans5 years ago

In fairness, redistricting isn't that easy. NY has 27 congressional districts, 19.5 million people and 62 counties, at least eight of which have too many people for one district, and half have less than 100,000 residents. This isn't a "give me a map, a pen and a half an hour" problem.

Do you start with the districts you already have? Do you start in one corner – say the eastern end of Long Island – and work north and west making districts as compact as possible? Is compact better than keeping like populations together? If you cluster around cities, rural voters may wind up with no real representation in congress.

I tried it recently and found a compact, whole counties only solution for our district around Syracuse. But Republicans would call it was gerrymandering since it replaced pieces of more Republican rural counties with Tompkins county, including Ithaca where the two principal parties are Democrats and Socialists. Starting in the middle also limits options in the western and northern parts of the state.

What if the lines you draw put two-thirds of the incumbents in a third of the districts? That's one thing with congressional districts, but state legislature districts have to be approved by the state legislators. Does anyone really expect a majority to quietly accept the Career Hara-Kiri Act?

The best solution may be statewide weighted voting, but that’s at least several decades away from public acceptance.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Howard Evans
Howard Evans5 years ago

Elaine, men don't see women as stupid. They see you as stupid. Is that picture from forty years ago the only one the orderlies let you keep?

Try focusing less on what other people are doing and more on what you're doing, like taking your meds every day.

Howard Evans
Howard Evans5 years ago

Steve, you're amazing. "Women are not entitled to greater representation just because feminist groups say so. They have to earn it." That would be 52% of the electorate, trying to keep 25% of the representatives already elected.

Great to see that your math skills are the equal of your other critical reasoning skills. I hope to God your license is stamped "No gum chewing while operating a motor vehicle."

Maitreya L5 years ago

Elaine A.
Ah, charming as ever I see, are you sure you're a woman? You seem to hate other women quite a bit. *Sigh* Never understood women who prefer patriarchy.

I guess it's not surprising the "good ol' boys" are using any method they can to limit women in office. Don't the Democrats and Republicans try to use redistricting to hurt the other Party pretty regularly too?

Maureen Hawkins
Maureen Hawkins5 years ago

Elaine, proofread your posts; your basic illiteracy is showing.

Carole L.
Carole L5 years ago

Jennifer S.
and tell me-does this stupid comment of yours also mean that men don't have to earn their representation? Or are they granted representation by Divine Right? One has to be blind or completely clueless not to see the bias”

Steve R is all of the above. ;) me thinks he has uterine envy.

Elaine A
“Because these idiot burn your bra feminists don't deserve to be in politics!”

Oh Lainie, Lainie, Lainie, no one ever burned their bras, it was a symbolic gesture meant to be linked with Vietnam male protesters burning their draft cards. Of course the symbolism was lost on “brilliant” pea brains such as you because it went totally over your heads.

Elaine A
“Because they are in that arena for their own rights, and that is to take away the rights of others.”

And just WHAT rights of yours are being taken away, exactly? You want to pop babies out like a pez dispenser knock yourself out sweetie. Leave the uterus's of others alone. the choice to breed or not to breed like rabbits is a personal choice not to be mandated by Uterus Nazis such as you.

Here’s a great motto for you Fright Reich's; a bun in every oven, a transvaginal probe in every vagina.

Elaine A
“No wonder the male species see women as stupid, as to many of them are”

Aw honey, you ought not to talk about yourself like that.

We need intelligent, compassionate, evolved, women in politics such as Warren, Pelosi, Clinton, etc.

Bartley Deason
Bartley Deason5 years ago

Elaine A.!
What are you doing posting on a page not dealing with lgbt issues? Are your inner fantasies

Bartley Deason
Bartley Deason5 years ago

Mark K. Said:
"Women have NO room to complain...all they need to do is vote."

There has to be a woman TO vote for.

As Robin says in the first sentence "As a variety of political groups struggle to get more women running for and into political office, the attempt to grow the ranks of women in politics is hitting a pretty deliberate roadblock."