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Mississippians Push for More Female Representation in Politics

Story contributed by broadcast journalism students Sarah Liese and Amanda Haley

For every single woman in political office in the United States, there are three men, the Washington Post reports. Mississippi ranks last in “gender parity,” or equal representation of gender in state government, according to the 2018 Gender Parity Index Report.

Locally, some have started to push Mississippians to elect more women into the state’s political landscape. One of the people responsible for this push is Cristen Hemmins. Hemmins is the chair of Lafayette County Democrats and says she is always hoping to help change Mississippi for the better. Hemmins was a Democratic nominee for a Mississippi state senate seat in 2015 and has since been involved as a political activist in the area. She said she has a number of reasons why she supports a move to get more women into politics.

“When women do better, families do better and when families do better, a community does better. Women vote for legislation and create bills that are different from men,” Hemmins said.

Hemmins is also involved with Emerge Mississippi. Emerge is a Democratic Party, non-profit organization that helps women who feel that they don’t have enough political knowledge or connections. The organization recruits and trains women in a way to make them more capable of running a successful campaign.

Of 172 legislative seats in Mississippi, under 15 percent are filled by women. Ole Miss student Madelyn Stratemann is majoring in political science and said politics is one of the last strongholds for men.

“I think politics is the one place where women are still like lacking with representation in Congress and in the Senate, whereas every other field is becoming mostly balanced. Having more women would really completely level the playing field in every place,” Sratemann said.

In Mississippi, that playing field has already been leveled slightly. Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Mississippi’s first female senator this year. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the position and is hoping to be officially elected on Nov. 6.

The November election for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi is a nonpartisan special election. The winner of the ballot will fill the seat that was left vacant by Thad Cochran, who stepped down due to health concerns. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Cochran’s term until the year 2021.

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