Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement released the complete “2020 Status of Women in North Carolina: Political Participation Report” in a virtual event on Tuesday.
Event speakers included Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance; Jo Nicholas, president of the League of Women Voters of NC; Nyanna Sherrod, president of the Rocky Mount Area Youth Council; and 5th District Court Judge Robin Robinson. This report is the third of four to be released by the Council in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research to bring awareness to key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina.
Moderated by Council Director Mary Williams-Stover, the event offered a review of data and policy recommendations from the 2020 Political Participation Report by Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Study Director Elyse Shaw, and a call to action by Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Machelle Sanders.
The Council held a series of events in August to discuss the findings of the 2020 report – all leading up to Women’s Equality Day on August 26. Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees and protects women’s constitutional right to vote. The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Recordings of all three events in the series will be available on the Council’s website.
During Tuesday’s event, in a video message, First Lady Kristin Cooper read the Women’s Equality Day proclamation issued by Gov. Roy Cooper. Read the full proclamation HERE.
The 2020 Political Participation report presents data on several aspects of women’s involvement in the political process in North Carolina, including comparisons to other states and the nation. It includes data on voter registration and turnout, female state and federal elected and appointed representation, and state-based institutional resources for women. Data from the report shows that, while some progress has been made in women’s political participation in North Carolina, obstacles persist at all levels.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Secretary Sanders, “and now is the time to do it. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research gives us a “D” rating for women’s political participation – we can do better than that. When more women are involved in civic life – from voting to community organizing, to running for office – the issues that matter most to women and their families get more action and traction.”
Some key findings in the report:
♦ While North Carolina women have been voting at slightly higher rates in recent years, their representation in elected office has declined.
♦ While women make up 51 percent of our state’s population, the majority of North Carolina political office holders at the state and federal levels remain male.
♦ At the current rate of change, it will be the year 2084 before women reach parity in the Legislature.
♦ The Political Participation Composite Index featured in this year’s report combines four component indicators of women’s political status: voter registration, voter turnout, representation in elected office, and women’s institutional resources. North Carolina ranks 35th in the United States overall on the Political Participation Composite Index – earning the state a “D” grade on the index.
Recommendations in the report include:
♦ Preparing strategies to ensure the safety of voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes increasing electronic voter registration, expanding use of absentee ballots and mail-in voting, and making election day a paid holiday so those who are able to make it to the polls have the time off from work needed to wait in longer, socially distanced lines. Additional activities could also include increasing the number of polling locations to help cut down the number of people voting at one location.
♦ Ensuring that all women have equal access to a fair electoral process. This includes implementing a fair system of drawing the state’s political maps – to combat gerrymandering – and eliminating unjust voter ID laws that disenfranchise vulnerable women.
♦ Recruiting more women to run for office and supporting women with mentoring, sponsorship, and education and training programs. Asking and encouraging women to run for political office is a vital part of increasing women’s representation in office at all levels.
♦ As follow up to the August launch events, leaders from the Council and DOA will hold meetings with elected officials at all levels to share the report findings, and will conduct regional virtual events this fall to hear local community input on the status of women.
To request a Council presentation on the report findings, visit bit.ly/CFWYIspeakers.
The Status of Women in NC report on Employment & Earnings was released in 2018. The report on Health and Wellness was released in 2019. The final Status of Women report in this series will cover Poverty and Opportunity.
More information is available at https://bit.ly/StatusOfWomenNC.
The North Carolina Council for Women and Youth Involvement (CFWYI) is a division of the North Carolina Department of Administration. The mission of the Council is to advise the Governor, state legislators and state leaders on issues that impact women and youth.