De­spite di­verse de­mo­graph­ics, ma­jor­ity of elected posts still held by white men

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

The Re­flec­tive Democ­racy Cam­paign’s lat­est sur­vey of elected of­fi­cials in Wis­con­sin and across the United States finds rep­re­sen­ta­tion is not at all re­flec­tive of state and na­tional de­mo­graph­ics.

Con­sider Wis­con­sin’s pop­u­la­tion de­mo­graph­ics:

• 41 per­cent white men, 42 per­cent white women, and 9 per­cent each women and men of color.

Now con­sider Wis­con­sin’s pop­u­la­tion of elected of­fi­cials:

• 71 per­cent white men, 26 per­cent white women, 2 per­cent men of color, and 1 per­cent women of color.

On the RDC’s Na­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion In­dex, Wis­con­sin was rated 3.2X — mean­ing white men have over three times the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of other groups. The in­dex mea­sures political power by race and gen­der, com­par­ing the de­mo­graph­ics of the state’s pop­u­la­tion to its elected of­fi­cials and ad­just­ing for level of of­fice.

Na­tion­wide, the cam­paign says white men make up 31 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion and hold 65 per­cent of elected of­fices. About 25 per­cent of elected of­fices are held by white women, 7 per­cent are held by men of color and 4 per­cent by women of color.

At the fed­eral level, 81 per­cent of elected of­fice­hold­ers are white and 80 per­cent are male.

“The im­bal­ance of power points to a pro­found fail­ure of our democ­racy, which has rel­e­gated 70 per­cent of Amer­i­cans to a spe­cial in­ter­est group,” said RDC ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Brenda Carter. “That’s how an all-male Se­nate com­mit­tee de­cides whether birth con­trol will be cov­ered by health in­sur­ance or how an es­sen­tially all­white com­mis­sion de­ter­mines the fu­ture of vot­ing rights for peo­ple of color.”

Ger­ry­man­der­ing, voter-sup­pres­sion leg­is­la­tion such as Wis­con­sin’s photo ID law, and other poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions are rea­sons for the con­cen­tra­tion of power among white men, ac­cord­ing to RDC.

But RDC also raised con­cerns about the gate­keep­ers — the politi­cians and ma­jor donors, who de­cide which can­di­dates to put on the bal­lots.

“We can’t ex­pect the Amer­i­can peo­ple to have faith in a sys­tem that doesn’t re­flect them,” Carter said.


In Wis­con­sin, a num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing to en­cour­age di­ver­sity on the bal­lot by re­cruit­ing and train­ing po­ten­tial can­di­dates, es­pe­cially for lo­cal and leg­isla­tive of­fices.

One such group is the Kenosha-based Women Em­pow­ered, which is or­ga­niz­ing a train­ing ses­sion Nov. 18 for can­di­dates con­sid­er­ing cam­paigns for the spring pri­mary Feb. 20, 2018, the spring elec­tion April 3 and the midterm elec­tion next Novem­ber.

At a WE fo­rum Oct. 28 at the Brad­ford Com­mu­nity Church Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist in Kenosha, for­mer Lt. Gov. Bar­bara Lawton, Kenosha County Su­per­vi­sor Leah Blough, school board mem­ber Re­becca Stevens and for­mer Kenosha Ald. Kather­ine Marks talked about their ex­pe­ri­ences run­ning for of­fice and hold­ing of­fice.

And WE shared some lo­cal statis­tics that re­flect what’s in the RDC sur­vey: Of 23 county su­per­vi­sor seats, only four are held by women. Women hold three of seven seats on the school board. And no women sit on Kenosha’s 17-mem­ber city coun­cil.

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