As Sessions Begin in 2019, a Record Number of Women Will Occupy Seats in Statehouses Nationwide
Editor's note: For complete election results, please visit NCSL's StateVote 2018 page.
When women run, they win. So, what happens when more women run than ever before? They break all kinds of records. Approximately 3,564 female candidates ran for state legislative seats in the recent midterm elections (Democrats, Republicans and third-party members), which is a whopping 28 percent increase compared with the 2,781 women who ran two years ago.
And many of them won. As sessions begin in 2019, at least 2,073 women (190 more than in 2018) will occupy seats in statehouses. That’s more than 28 percent, an all-time high, and nearly 3 percentage points higher than in 2018, according to NCSL’s preliminary analysis.
There hasn’t been an increase in the share of women this large since another significant election: 1992, also deemed a “Year of the Woman.” That was when the nationwide portion of women in office jumped from 18.4 percent to 20.5 percent, following Anita Hill’s allegations during the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
It’s been a slow but steady climb for women. The portion of female lawmakers was stuck under 5 percent until 1973, when it began creeping upward.
But it wasn’t only state legislatures that saw gains. The recent midterm was a history-making election for female candidates up and down the ballot. At least 118 women will serve in Congress next year and there will be at least nine female governors, tying a previous record. Still, states vary greatly.
Women gained seats or held steady at the same ratio in most states. The U.S. territory of Guam set the pace election night, coming in with the first resounding victories for women. The island of about 166,000 American citizens elected women to be governor and to hold 10 of the 15 seats in the unicameral Legislature.
If preliminary results hold, women will now outnumber men in the Colorado House (33-32) and in the Nevada Assembly (22-20). Women have been in the majority only once before, in 2009-10, when 13 of 24 members in the New Hampshire Senate were women. Nevada is poised to have the largest number of female legislators, 47.6 percent, which is a record for any state.
Along with Nevada, states with the highest percentages of women are Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Washington. States with an increase of 5 percentage points or more include Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah.
What influence will this influx of women have on legislatures? We’ll be keeping an eye on that. Stay tuned.
Katie Ziegler is the program manager of NCSL's Women's Legislative Network.