After the midterms of 2022, women will hold 51 seats out of 100 in both chambers
The Colorado state legislature is poised to have more women than men for the first time in state history in 2023, with 51% of Colorado state legislators being women following the 2022 midterm elections.
Assuming several remaining close races are called as expected, Colorado will have 39 women in the House of Representatives and 12 women in the Senate in 2023 — which means a total of 51 women in the 100-seat legislature. House Democrats will have 34 women in office and House Republicans will have five women in office, while Senate Democrats will have 10 women and Senate Republicans will have two women in office.
Ahead of this month’s election, the highest proportion of women in Colorado’s legislature at the start of the 2019 session was 48%. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutger’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, it fell to 46% by the end of the session and then back to 44% in 2020 and 2021. In the 2022 session, it rose again by 1 percentage point to 45%, making the 2023 session the highest at an expected 51%.
The number will make Colorado the second state to reach this milestone: Nevada was the first state to have more women than men in a state legislature when two women were appointed to vacancies in December 2018. According to CAWP, the Nevada Legislature was 52.4% women through the end of the 2019 session, 54% in 2020, and 58.7% through the end of 2021 and 2022.
Kelly Dittmar, CAWP research director, said while there are still a few states where it is numerically possible to have another female-majority legislature, after this election cycle it will most likely only be Nevada and Colorado. She said reaching this milestone in Colorado is another way to observe how the country sees greater gender parity in politics and how well it actually serves as a representative democracy.
“When we think of female-majority parliaments, it’s an indicator that the legislature in this state is finally reflecting the population it serves in terms of gender, and that doesn’t apply to so many identity lines, including gender, across.” the country and across history,” said Dittmar. She added that more women also allows for greater diversity among those women, which she called “a mirror of good democracy.”
Martha Saenz, associate director of the Women’s Legislative Network, part of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that although Nevada still has some races to name, women are expected to make up about 61% of the legislature in both houses — the highest representation in the nation .
In Colorado, the House of Representatives has previously had a women majority and will be about 60 percent women next year, Saenz said, but the Senate still sits at about 40 percent women. Across the country, the average representation of women in state legislatures is 31%, she said.
“When we know that women make up just over 50% of the population, it’s important for state legislatures to reflect their populations, so I think it’ll be interesting to follow,” Saenz said.
In some cases, state legislation and politics might look different with more women in the state house, but Dittmar said she wouldn’t be too quick to say it will have a big impact in Colorado, given the state’s emphasis on women’s voices in politics for so long .
“A legislature with a majority of women does not mean that gender equality is suddenly the be-all and end-all across all policies or even at all levels of office,” said Dittmar. “As we celebrate it, we must be careful not to assume that the work on gender equality is getting done, particularly on political power, broadly speaking.”
Colorado House Democrats just elected Dillon Representative Julie McCluskie as Speaker, along with several other women leaders in the House and Senate. Arvada Rep. Brianna Titone was the state’s first transgender legislator and will now also be the first transgender legislator to have a leadership role as co-chair of the majority caucus.
“For the first time in state history, Colorado is celebrating a legislature with a majority of female lawmakers, including the most diverse female-led House leadership team to date,” McCluskie said in an email. “Together, we advance Colorado with bold new ideas and diverse representation that stretches from our cities to our mountain and rural communities. I couldn’t be prouder to lead a caucus that reflects the state we all love.”
Colorado became the first state to elect women to a state legislature in 1894 when three women were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives.
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