Alabama has 4th lowest percentage of women legislators
MONTGOMERY (AP) — While more women have been elected to the Alabama Legislature, the state has the fourth-lowest percentage of female legislators among the 50 states, a survey found.
Voters in November elected 14 women to the 105-member Alabama House and four to the 35-member Senate. That means women make up 12.9 percent of the Legislature, which Alabama House clerk Greg Pappas said is a record for this state.
In May 1994, Alabama ranked last among the states with 5.7 percent — eight women — according to a survey by what is now the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Today, only South Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma have lower percentages of women in their legislatures, according to a survey by the Women's Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
More than a third of the legislative seats in four states — New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota and Colorado — are held by women. Nationwide, women now hold 23.5 percent of the seats in state legislatures, according to the survey.
Electing more women to office would balance the mostly male outlook that dominates the Statehouse and likely bring more attention to health care, education and children's issues, several of Alabama's female legislators told The Birmingham News for a story Thursday.
"I think women bring a different perspective," said state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs. She said women tend to bring more of a humanitarian, compassionate, caretaking outlook, though there are exceptions.
"We're concerned about children and education and health care," said Rep. Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer. "We're the nurturing class of people."
Dunn said a move to create and pay for more public pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds likely would have a better chance of passing if more women were in the Legislature.
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, said she thinks women more often than men support bills designed to help adults support themselves and their children. She believes women would be more willing to raise the minimum wage and spend more money to subsidize child care and expand mass transit.
Not all female lawmakers agreed.
Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile, said she wasn't sure education, health care and child care would get more attention with more women in the Statehouse. "All those issues are certainly issues that are discussed today in the Legislature," she said.
Sens. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, and Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, said they believed there would be less posturing and bickering and more action in the Senate if more women were members.
"I think you'd find a whole lot more compromise," Coleman said.
Figures added, "All this bickering going on in the Senate, I don't think it would happen with more women. We like to make a decision and then move on."
Alabama's percentage of women in the Legislature is increasing. After the November 2002 election, the state ranked next to last, just above South Carolina, with 10 percent — 14 women — in the Legislature, according to the Women's Legislative Network.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!