Our Democracy Has Problems. Women Have Solutions.

Activists march to a “No More Excuses: Voting Rights Now!” rally in Lafayette Square in in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2021. The rally called on the Biden administration “to take immediate action for voting rights.” (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

These are trying times, no doubt. We have heard multiple well-informed people talk about plans to become self-reliant homesteaders because of “how things are going” in our country. Others have even casually mentioned that they have an escape plan lined up in case things “continue to go south.”

As Vice President Kamala Harris famously said, “The status of women is the status of democracy.” A recent essay in Foreign Affairs underscores that “the 21st [century] is demonstrating that misogyny and authoritarianism are not just common comorbidities but mutually reinforcing ills.” Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the United States, which now sits at a stunning 72nd in the global ranking of political gender parity, is not even considered a “full democracy” by the Economist Intelligence’s Democracy Index 2021

Extreme political and cultural polarization puts our “functioning of government” score at an all-time low, placing the U.S. below countries that have even experienced multiple military coups. The January 6th riot on the Capitol, unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, the politicization of a public health crisis, gerrymandering … all have contributed to a real and felt decline in the quality and effectiveness of our democracy. The United States, one of the world’s oldest democracies, is now seeing a rise of antidemocratic views, not only among citizens, but squarely within its established political parties.  

But never fear. We come bearing good news. There is hope. And that hope, we believe, is the shared power and potential of mobilized women to forge a new movement for a 21st century democracy. A movement guided by passion and participation. A movement designed to propel a virtuous circle of reinforcing cultural and institutional advancements, where true representation becomes a reality in our lifetimes. A movement that, as history shows, is destined for lasting success because it is envisioned and fueled by women and people of color. 

We hope you are inspired and encouraged by what this slate of women experts—working at all levels to reform and revitalize our democracy—have to say. We surely are!

And to hear more about democracy solutions and how you can get involved, join us March 8–10 from 3–5 p.m. ET for RepresentWomen‘s democracy Solutions Summit, which brings together experts and leaders in election administration, voting rights and democracy reform who are working on innovative solutions that upgrade and strengthen our democracy. Women experts will discuss a range of critical issues related to fair access, fair elections and fair representation. Experts will focus on viable, scalable and transformative solutions to build a 21st Century Democracy that reflects today’s needs and values. See you there—register here!

What is your dream for democracy in the U.S., rooted in the cause for which you advocate?

I have a dream of a democracy in the U.S. where every citizen, no matter who they are or where they come from, can register to vote, cast their vote, and know their vote will be counted fairly.

We will knock down all barriers to voting and empower communities to participate. Running for office won’t require personal wealth or relationships with those with money or power. We will see the last of the firsts. Our elected officials will reflect our communities, representing the real diversity of the United States of America, and as a result, our polices will be inclusive and just.

—Secretary Shenna Bellows, Maine secretary of state

My dream for democracy is that we give all Americans access to a private, independent and secure vote in a way that works for them.

This means making voter registration more accessible and where possible, automatic; providing comprehensive, accessible, easy to read voter education materials; and making the voting process easy to navigate through standardized early voting nationwide, the ability to vote from home, and fully accessible polling places staffed by poll workers who have received comprehensive training on how to support voters with disabilities and voters whose primary language is not English. At its core, this means fighting against voter suppression and systemic inaccessibility, and advocating for voting processes and infrastructure rooted in equity and justice.

—Sarah Blahovec, disability civic engagement expert

Since its founding, America has struggled with achieving liberty and justice for its marginalized groups, including women. We’ve heard of the American dream, but our country has not fulfilled this promise of freedom and opportunity, for many.

My dream for democracy is rooted in an America where its policies better reflect the needs of its people. At Rank the Vote, we educate people on ranked-choice voting, a voting system that gives people more choice and more voice. Ranked-choice voting has diversified office holders in many jurisdictions where enacted. Now is the time to pass ranked-choice voting and transform our statehouses, town halls and Congress. With a powerful reflective majority, America can enact much needed change across a variety of issues. I support ranked-choice voting and the work RepresentWomen is doing to fight for fair elections, fair access and fair representation.

—Monica Burke, national organizing director at Rank the Vote

I was born in Washington, D.C., where democracy and the ideals of the American Dream were literally everywhere. Yet, I didn’t know what that truly meant until I was 19 and went to Michigan for school. Ironic. This is the consequence of not feeling genuinely represented in my own city.

My dream for democracy is to implement an equitable electoral system, such as ranked-choice voting, for our elections. My dream is that all people, no matter their background, will be and feel deserving and empowered to take action in all civic engagement opportunities.

—Jacqueline Castaneda, deputy communications director at D.C. Latino Caucus

Our forefathers and foremothers fought, and even died, to protect and expand the right to vote in this country. I would like to see more Americans value and honor those sacrifices by registering to vote and turning out to vote in every election.

In the 2020 election, Pennsylvania saw record voter registration (more than 9.1 million residents) and record turnout (76 percent of registered voters). Nationally, 67 percent of voting age citizens reported casting ballots. Seventeen million more voters cast ballots than in 2016, the largest increase between two presidential elections on record. Those numbers are great, but I want to see such increases in voting become a trend rather than an anomaly.

My dream is to see us approach 100 percent citizen participation in every election. I especially hope young people will develop the voting habit and feel empowered by participating in our democracy.

—Acting Secretary Leigh Chapman, acting secretary of state for the state of Pennsylvania

I want people to have a voice in their representative government. I often talk to people who have no idea who represents them in the U.S. House. They feel so shut out of representation they don’t see the point.

Structural barriers to effective participation should not be so great that people feel irrelevant and voiceless. That’s not healthy or sustainable. It is also contrary to how the U.S. House was designed to function. The House was designed to grow with the population. If we return to the practice of apportioning districts based on a ratio of representatives to constituents, people could meet with and know their representatives. Their voices could be heard. Further, people from more walks of life could run for office. It would create an opportunity for a greater diversity of the American experience to be represented in the U.S. House.

—Sarah Depew

We must create an inspirational, accountable and responsive government of, by and for the people of The United States of America.

—Katie Fahey, executive director of The People

Growing up in rural Colorado, in and out of food banks, watching my mom work tirelessly just to make ends meet—I didn’t feel like anyone in government was listening to the needs of my family or our friends and neighbors who were also struggling. That is when I realized the power of the vote, the power of electing people who will represent your voice and needs in government.

What drives me as secretary of state is ensuring that every eligible voter in Colorado is able to access that power. That is why I have worked to expand automatic voter registration, increase drop boxes and protect vote-by-mail.

It doesn’t matter a person’s zip code, race, age or the amount of money in their bank account—true democracy is the full realization of the notion that ‘we the people’ get to elect our representatives at the ballot box.

—Secretary Jena Griswold, secretary of state for Colorado

My dream is to live in an inclusive democracy that lives up to its promise. Where everyone has a say in the future for their family and community; where anyone can run for public office; where everyone plays by the same fair rules; and where our government reflects who we are because people vote in high numbers. We must not yield to a cynicism that says we can never improve.

Making the dream real means ensuring those who represent us are reflective and responsive to the people—not the wealthy who dominate campaign and lobbyist spending. It means ending voter suppression that silences Black and brown voters; replacing unaccountable secret money in elections with small dollar donor laws that shift power from wealthy special interests to the people; ending racial and partisan gerrymandering by shifting power from politicians to impartial commissions; and preventing election sabotage that would steal power from voters by overturning elections.

—Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause
State legis­latures enacted far more restrict­ive voting laws in 2021 than in any year since voting rights organizations began tracking this data in 2011. (NAACP / Instagram)

My dream for U.S. democracy is that we can no longer predict ease of voting at every level based on race. This means that we white people get to learn to see that almost every policy question related to voting is raised to protect white dominance in the voting booth and, therefore, the halls of power and, therefore, in the policies, processes and practices of our governments at every level.

—Betsy Hodges, former Minneapolis mayor

It would be tough to argue that American democracy is in a good place right now. We’re spiraling. But I work in the democracy reform space; hope is what we get out of bed for.

My dream is twofold.

1. I know if we can accurately represent our communities in our elected bodies we will achieve success. Voters will feel represented, be represented, and our representatives will bring a wide range of ideas and solutions to advocate for the people in their districts. The conversation between voters and elected officials won’t end on Election Day.

2. We have got to be able to talk about making real changes to our government without being dismissed as radical. That goes for all sides of the political spectrum. Healthy conversations about democracy are a vital part of healthy democracy.

—Stephanie Houghton, organizing and legislative director at FairVote Washington

My dream is that we get into a virtuous cycle where our government institutions, civic institutions and culture reinforce each other and inspire faith in American democracy. Right now, we’re caught in a vicious cycle where our institutions are polarized and unresponsive, which causes ordinary individuals to disengage, which leads to less responsive and more polarized institutions.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences’ landmark report on revitalizing American democracy, “Our Common Purpose,” is remarkable because it addresses not just reform of our government institutions, but the entire landscape, and I’m proud to be working to implement that vision.

—Jessica Lieberman, program officer of American democracy and political and voting reform at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Our democracy was built to represent the people—all people. Unfortunately, right now our nation’s leadership does not reflect the wonderfully diverse nation they are in office to serve.

Women account for more than 51 percent of the population and yet are vastly underrepresented at all levels of government—30 percent of all seats locally and federally—and the numbers are even lower for underrepresented communities including Black, Latina, AAPI, Native American, multiracial and LGBTQ+. So a dream democracy to me looks like one that prioritizes the voices and lived experiences of women and girls from all walks of life.

At She Should Run, we believe that women of all political leanings, ethnicities and backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to lead in elected office and our democracy will benefit from different perspectives and experiences that women bring to leadership.

—Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She Should Run

My dream for democracy in the U.S. is for young people to have sustainable, equitable and meaningful access to civic participation and leadership. Historically and presently, young people have been disenfranchised from civic spaces and positions of power. We need sustainable civic structures to ensure young people’s voices, especially those from systemically oppressed communities, are heard.

Youth, such as myself, are our democracy’s present and future. As Gen Z makes up the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet, to ensure democracy adequately represents our country’s population, young people must be uplifted in places of decision-making and in positions of leadership.

—Ava Mateo, executive director of 18by.Vote

My dream for democracy in the U.S. is a pro-voter process that is fair, modern, innovative, inclusive, accessible, secure, transparent and efficient.

We need to put voters first and ensure all voters have an awesome experience, regardless of their zip code, race, gender or political affiliation. We must meet voters where they are in their everyday lives and empower them with options to engage and vote.

We must educate future voters about the voting process—from their first days in elementary school to their final days in high school. We also must ensure that bad actors who deliberately attack our democracy with lies and disinformation are held accountable.

Finally, we must renew our efforts to improve our civic health which includes pro-voter voting reforms but also includes how we interact and debate policy initiatives.

—The Honorable Amber McReynolds, national election expert, former election official and current USPS governor

It is a tall order, trying to have a functional multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural democracy. It is the hardest thing to do! And the most worthwhile.

This experiment that is American democracy has not been going particularly well, as we are all witnessing. But we can change course. We can adjust our hypotheses, tools and parameters. We must learn as we go, this is how experiments work.

My dream for American democracy is a fundamental shift in how we approach the experiment. I want a democracy that prioritizes above all else incentives to civic engagement and public trust. I want a democracy where we have many political parties and more people finding their political home and engaging in the civic process, year-round, not just around election cycles. I want a democracy with fair and smart election systems where good candidates can run, where incumbents have to compete, and where voters feel their votes count.

—Maria Perez, co-director of Democracy Rising

Extending the hard fought American ideal of “one person, one vote” to presidential elections.

When we elect the president by national popular vote, whichever candidate wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and D.C. will win the presidency.

When every vote in the presidential election is equal, we will no longer have 12 ‘battleground’ states (where the entire general election campaign happens) or the 38 reliably ‘red’ or ‘blue’ states (which are all equally ignored). We will just have voters, each of whom has an equal opportunity for their vote to decide the election, and candidates who are incentivized to campaign in all 50 states and D.C. For the first time, we’ll be able to tell every voter that their vote for the U.S. president matters equally, no matter what state they happen to be casting their ballot from.

—Eileen Reavey, national grassroots director at National Popular Vote

I dream that Citzens United is overturned allowing a level playing field for all candidates to run and reducing the influence of corporations in public policy.

I dream that the wealth tax is implemented and the funds are used to pay reparations to the people of color and Native communities who built the wealth of most legacy families in the U.S. and/or had their lands stolen.

I aspire to live in a democracy that creates a livable wage and underwrites technology needs and education for all working families including training about finance and how money moves.

And finally, I envision a healthy democratic society where civic studies are mandatory for all middle and high school students and voting is a cherished right of passage with more than 75 percent of eligible voters participating in every election.

—Tuti Scott, founder and president of Changemaker Strategies

My dream for democracy is to see a majority of women of color leading in the halls of power and enacting local, state, and federal policy that is informed by women’s experiences and addresses systemic inequities.

My dream is manifested through better voting methods (ranked-choice voting) and public financing of elections—two powerful reforms that empower candidates and voters to have a stronger voice in who runs and who wins.

—Michelle Whittaker, messaging and campaign strategist

I dream of a government that’s truly representative of and responsive to the people. Our plurality system allows candidates with a small but fervent base of support to win, even if a majority would have preferred someone else. It encourages hyperpartisanship and personal attacks, rather than focusing on the issues that matter most.

Ranked-choice voting is a small change to the ballot—allowing voters to rank candidates—but one that has the powerful potential to transform our politics for the better. If your first choice doesn’t have enough support to win, then your second choice will count. To win, candidates must build a majority coalition. That means reaching beyond their base, focusing on the issues, and eschewing negative attacks. It stops the spoiler problem and encourages more women and people with diverse backgrounds to run for office. RCV empowers voters and strengthens democracy for all of us.

—Erin Zamoff, public affairs and communications at FairVote Minnesota

What is something—or a few things—you’re shocked aren’t already common practice in U.S. democracy in 2022?

It’s shameful that in 2022 we don’t have universal suffrage. In Maine, no citizen ever loses their right to vote, regardless of current or past incarceration. That should be nationwide law.

It’s also alarming that we don’t have universal same day voter registration so that voters can register and cast their ballot on Election Day. Too many Americans are barred from the polls because of artificial registration deadlines.

Finally, we should have early or absentee voting for everyone up to 30 days prior to Election Day. That’s what we do in Maine, and it eliminates long lines at the polls on Election Day.

—Secretary Shenna Bellows, Maine secretary of state

As someone who has been working on civic engagement for disabled voters for several years, I can’t say I’m surprised by any barriers to participating in the democratic process, but I’m particularly frustrated by pushback on reforms that make voting more equitable. We have the ability to implement automatic voter registration that would help to overcome voter registration access barriers. We could implement nationwide early voting and allow for remote voting, which would significantly reduce long lines at polling places on Election Day and help voters who, due to their jobs, health, or lack of transit, cannot easily access the polls on Election Day. Voters, particularly racially marginalized and disabled voters, should not have to jump through hoops to cast their ballots.

We have solutions, but we need to fight the forces and proponents of systemic voter suppression to implement them.

—Sarah Blahovec, disability civic engagement expert

I am disappointed that it isn’t already common practice in the U.S. to have a number of electoral reforms such as ranked-choice voting, universal vote by mail, publicly funded elections, independent redistricting, automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration. I am grateful for people who are working to advocate for these reforms to strengthen our democracy.

—Monica Burke, national organizing director at Rank the Vote

I believe it is time to grant voting rights to non-citizens here in the U.S. Many non-citizens in the U.S. have spent decades contributing to the success and wealth of this country. However, not having the ability to participate in elections that affect them and their families is shameful and scary.

Non-citizens here in the U.S. should help elect leaders who can fairly represent them and their communities. In doing so, we are genuinely incorporating the views and values of all, ensuring that we are creating the change we wish to see for every individual here.

—Jacqueline Castaneda, deputy communications director at D.C. Latino Caucus

I am shocked that we haven’t universally modernized our voting options to make them more convenient and accessible for all eligible Americans. Instead, we see a resurgence in efforts to create barriers to voting. Any changes to state election codes should increase secure access to the ballot box, not restrict it. The voting process shouldn’t present a hardship or inconvenience to voters who work busy schedules and have families or voters who have limited mobility. Greater participation in elections ensures fairer representation and increased accountability in government.

Common-sense election reforms, such as same-day voter registration and early in-person voting, should be the standard throughout the United States. We can make election administration more efficient by allowing pre-canvassing of mail ballots before election day and adopting the widespread use of electronic poll books, which provide accurate, up-to-date voter lists. We also need to improve poll worker training and pay.

Acting Secretary Leigh Chapman, acting secretary of state for the state of Pennsylvania

I’m shocked that more is not being done to promote conversations within communities. Given how toxic and threatening political discourse has gotten, it’s understandable that people would rather not engage directly. However, the path towards peace and stability requires more communication and leaning into difficult conversations. Political reforms can improve the situation.

Expanding the U.S. House of Representatives and therefore drastically reducing the size of congressional districts can remove barriers to communication and relationship-building between members of a district and their representative. Expanding the U.S. House can also address other problems that undermine constituent trust, such as the high cost of running for office.

But this needs to be one part of a broader, intentional effort to build a stable foundation for civic life in our country. We must be aggressive about reaching people in their cities and neighborhoods and truly begin implementing peacebuilding strategies.

—Sarah Depew

We have not eliminated gerrymandering with independent citizen redistricting commissions in all 50 states. The fact that politicians still get to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians is mind-boggling.

—Katie Fahey, executive director of The People

The Colorado election model is the gold standard. It’s also incredibly simple: An eligible person registers to vote, they are then mailed a ballot and can return it by mail, at one of over a hundred drop boxes, or they can vote in-person during early voting, and even register to vote and cast a ballot on election day. Our system prioritizes voter access while maintaining the highest levels of security.

Our success speaks for itself. Colorado has been described as a national leader in safeguarding elections including by former President Trump’s DHS secretary, and we had the second highest national turnout in the 2020 election with over 86.5 percent of active voters casting a ballot. Our system works and other states should follow suit so that every eligible American voter can make their voice heard in accessible and secure elections.

—Secretary Jena Griswold, secretary of state for Colorado

A protest outside the Supreme Court an hour after the announcement of the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch by former President Trump in January 2017. Gorsuch is one of 108 white men in the 115 Supreme Court justices throughout U.S. history. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Electing a president by popular vote.

Some view the electoral college as giving small states a say in electing presidents. In fact, the electoral college is a pinnacle of structural racism, born of a compromise counting enslaved people as fractions of humans to balance seats in Congress. It never should have been.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a solution adopted by 15 states and the District of Columbia that will allow the popular vote to prevail once enough states enter the agreement.

Impartial district mapping.

Gerrymandering steals voter’s power. Once practiced in smoke-filled back rooms, technology and precision voter data allow politicians to engineer legislative majorities from fewer overall votes.

Citizen funded elections.

The Supreme Court has dismantled fair rules that level the playing field. This gives the wealthy few too much power over who runs and what issue are on the agenda. Solutions include small donor empowerment programs and strong disclosure laws so that voters can “follow-the-money.”

—Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause

From the standpoint of realism, there is nothing I am shocked isn’t common practice in U.S. democracy. Too much power flows through the voting booth to have it be anything but contested space.

From the standpoint of loving democracy, however, I am shocked the proven method of ranked-choice voting isn’t in every city and state. I ran three times under RCV in Minneapolis. Each of those elections was fairer because voters had more than one choice and kinder because candidates risked a lot to go negative about an opponent. Democracy is deepened with RCV, and at a time when our democracy is actively threatened from within we need to use all the best practices we have to not only protect it but expand it.

—Betsy Hodges, former Minneapolis mayor

Even in 2022, the majority of voters aren’t represented by their elected officials. That’s shocking. Whether it’s because of winner-take-all elections, active voter suppression, or apathy among the electorate due to lack of good candidates the result is the same—most people look at the government and don’t see themselves, their communities, or their issues represented.

We have the ability to use proportional representation, to register and turnout every voter, and to nominate candidates who excite the electorate. We can do it. So let’s do it. Let’s stop trying to make small adjustments, one candidate at a time—it’s time for big change.

—Stephanie Houghton, organizing and legislative director at FairVote Washington

It is shocking to me that it has been over a century since Congress expanded the size of the House of Representatives. For the first 150 years of its existence, the House added seats regularly to keep up with population growth. Then, around the time that women got the right to vote, Congress stopped doing its job.

Since then, the number of constituents per congressional district has more than tripled, from 210,000 in 1910 to nearly 770,000 today, and it could reach a million or more in the next several decades. This is far from what the founders intended and bad for representative democracy. After all, it’s hard to feel like your representative cares about you when you’re literally one in a million.

—Jessica Lieberman, program officer of American democracy and political and Voting Reform at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Former Marine fighter pilot and two-time candidate Amy McGrath, said in a recent podcast, “We have to be involved and that’s what patriotism is.”

I’m shocked that in a U.S. democracy in 2022, we don’t acknowledge and celebrate public service as honorable. There’s a lethargy around politics and the current state of affairs in the U.S. that has never been seen before—but if we want something to change, something has to change.

That’s why at She Should Run, we look at elected service through the lens of leadership. We are normalizing the conversation around elected office and helping women see the necessary role they play in our democracy. Rather than focus on what’s not working, let’s amplify the over 500,000 offices in the U.S., mostly at the local level and often volunteer roles, filled by people trying to make their communities better.

—Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She Should Run

Our public education system was designed to stimulate democracy. And yet, in 2022, our nation fails to educate our children on subjects of democracy. The fact that we do not have a comprehensive national civic education program is unacceptable in a country that claims to champion democracy.

Moreover, amongst the world’s democracies, the United States is one of the only countries that still does not have automatic voter registration. To ensure every citizen has access to their right to vote, we need an opt-out system rather than opt-in.

And finally, despite the fact that young people have shown up in record numbers in recent years, there is still minimal attention on our youngest voters from politicians. Young people notice when they are listened to and when their priorities are heard.

—Ava Mateo, executive director of 18by.Vote

I am shocked that so many pro-voter policies have become politicized. Convenient voting options like voting at home, early voting, secure drop boxes, automated voter registration, proactive address updates, vote centers, and online voter registration should be the norm across all states.

I am shocked that many primary elections still exclude unaffiliated voters who make up the largest share of voters and are taxpayers paying for the elections.

I am shocked that reforms like ranked-choice voting have not expanded, especially in presidential primaries.

I am shocked that the redistricting process is still driven by partisan politicians in most states as opposed to independent commissions led by citizens.

Finally, I am deeply disappointed that some partisan politicians attack our voting process (including election officials and those who work to support the voting process) when they lose.

—The Honorable Amber McReynolds, national election expert, former election official and current USPS governor

What I find really shocking is to find ourselves slipping quickly into very dark authoritarian, fascistic political times. I am shocked at the wave of anti-democracy legislation happening everywhere. I am shocked by political violence.

I find it absurd that people need to register to vote. Every eligible 18-year-old should be automatically registered. I find it absurd that we have a 2-party system, when more than 40 percent of the population identifies as independent. I find it absurd that we don’t use ranked ballots for electing all our elected officials. I find it absurd that we don’t have restraints on how the wealthy can spend money on the political process. I am mostly shocked that we have let this all happen.

Our democracy is in the shape it is, because we have let profit and power to be the main priority. We have the civic responsibility to change the way we do government.

—Maria Perez, co-director of Democracy Rising

A drastic change to the way that political parties nominate their presidential candidates. Our current primary system allows for the nomination to be decided before some states have even held their elections, and the results out of the first four elections (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) have a tremendous impact on which candidates survive. Those states are not somehow a perfect representation of the American electorate, in fact the two that go first are both over 90 percent white (Iowa, New Hampshire).

Possible changes include moving to a national primary day, drastically shortening the primary election cycle, or rotating a slate of states that vote first—any of these would be an improvement on the current system. If political parties are interested in being responsive to, and expanding their electorate, they should recognize that the current primary system is a hindrance to that goal.

—Eileen Reavey, national grassroots director at National Popular Vote

I am shocked that the U.S. democratic system is unable to have healthy debates with facts and counter arguments based on reasoning and logic. I am saddened by the current dialogue around trans women in sports and the complicated science arguments being dismissed and creating another example of pitting the victims against one another (women’s sports advocates and trans athletes). I am frustrated daily by the fact that Congress is unable to vote in alignment with people’s wishes and highest good and instead chooses to vote based on escalating fear or advancing their self interests. As well, I am dismayed that a sophisticated country such as the USA is unable to resolve the issues around gerrymandering.

Last, but by no means least, the fact that men dominate and control women by making decisions about when and if they want to have children is sexist, destructive and disheartening.

—Tuti Scott, founder and president of Changemaker Strategies

Democracy should be accessible to all. I am shocked and disappointed that we still have physical buildings that often accommodate male legislators (like more accessible bathrooms). I’m shocked many legislative practices are antiquated and unable to accommodate nursing mothers, caregivers, young people, or persons with disabilities in 2021. Accessibility should a fixture in our democracy, not a workaround.

—Michelle Whittaker, messaging and campaign strategist

I am shocked that more women have not been elected to offices at all levels of government. In the last state election in Minnesota, more women were elected to the state house than ever before, but they still make up only 36 percent of the legislature, far below their share of the population. Women’s representation is even worse in Congress.

We have an outdated system that does not allow for proportional representation, and we need structural reforms to open up our system to more women and new voices. Research has shown that ranked-choice voting levels the playing field and encourages more women and more racially diverse candidates to run and win. Having more women in public office strengthens democracy in and of itself—by ensuring a government that is more inclusive, representative of and responsive to half of the population.

—Erin Zamoff, public affairs and communications at FairVote Minnesota

RepresentWomen’s inaugural Solutions Summit brings together experts and leaders in election administration, voting rights, and democracy reform who are working on innovative solutions that upgrade and strengthen our democracy. Women experts will discuss a range of critical issues related to fair access, fair elections and fair representation. Experts will focus on viable, scalable and transformative solutions to build a 21st century democracy that reflects today’s needs and values. Register here.

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About and

Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen and a founding board member of the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations. Terrell is an outspoken advocate for innovative rules and systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote—a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation, voting system reform and democracy in the United States and abroad.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the executive director of Ms. partnerships and strategy. A lawyer, fierce advocate and frequent writer on issues of gender, feminism and politics in America, Weiss-Wolf has been dubbed the “architect of the U.S. campaign to squash the tampon tax” by Newsweek. She is the author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, which was lauded by Gloria Steinem as “the beginning of liberation for us all,” and is a contributor to Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth. She is also the executive director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Center at NYU Law. Find her on Twitter: @jweisswolf.