Voters elect more women to Vt. House and Senate than ever before

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 6:08 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2022 at 7:32 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont women got a record number of wins on election night.

According to the latest census data, the demographic of Vermont is split nearly 50% women to 50% men. In this upcoming session, representation in our Legislature will more closely align with that ratio than ever before. The percentage of women in the Legislature will increase from 40.6% to 45%, or from 73 women lawmakers to 81.

“With this many more women in the Legislature that means there are more moms, more young women, more LGBTQ-plus women,” said Elaine Haney, the executive director of Emerge Vermont.

Haney has been tracking the trends of women in Vermont politics for years. While the organization’s goal is to increase the number of Democratic women in office, Haney says additional women lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will provide an informed perspective.

“It’s a better representation for all of us, and I think that their presence in the room and their influence on legislation will mean that programs and policies that benefit women, children, families, communities and businesses will be more reflective of what Vermonters really need,” she said.

With 81 women seated at the 180-person table, Haney says she expects both the Vermont House and Senate to prioritize topics like child care, substance use disorder, paid family leave, mental health care and corrections.

“When it comes down to it, the issues that are facing Vermonters aren’t Republican and Democrat, it’s Vermonters,” said Ashley Bartley, the newly elected representative of Fairfax and Georgia.

Bartley agrees that the significance of women’s successes this November rises above party lines. As a working mom to a 10-month-old daughter and stepmom to a 7-year-old boy, the soon-to-be freshman legislator will be one of nine Republican women in the House to 60 Democratic women and five Progressive women. No Republican women were elected to the Senate, while 12 Democratic women and one Progressive woman won seats.

Bartley is confident that regardless of party affiliation, lawmakers will find common ground through shared, lived experiences.

“I think we can really come together, work together and focus on Vermonters-- what’s affecting other mothers, other grandmothers-- in a way that may not necessarily have been viewed before,” Bartley said.

Another valuable view-- that of women of color-- who also accomplished historic victories.

“We have had five women of color in all of history in the Legislature, and this year, we will have five of color seated at the same time. It’s incredibly historic,” said Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden County.

Freshly reelected Ram Hinsdale recalls when in 2009 she was only the second woman of color to serve in Vermont’s general assembly, about 20 years after Louvenia Bright’s election in 1988, according to Emerge Vermont.

Ram Hinsdale is still the first and only woman of color in the Vermont Senate.

She tells me she’s looking forward to a future where Vermont women are leading civil discussions and not just playing politics.

“More often than not, women are united by their caregiving roles, by their desire to support their families and their communities, to make sure kids have enough to eat and that we protect the environment,” Ram Hinsdale said.

According to Emerge Vermont, Saudia Lamont is also the first black woman to represent the Lamoille-Washington district in the Vermont House, and Angela Lawrence of Windham County is the first black woman to be elected High Bailiff.

Haney notes Vermont has been a state since 1791 and only until very recently, men have been in the majority of our governing bodies. She says while it’s a step in the right direction, she won’t be satisfied with the results until women have an equal number of seats at the table for many years to come.

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