Missouri bucks trend, elects more women to state legislature

Last week’s elections ended with an overall drop in the number of women who will serve in state legislatures, but Missouri appears to be bucking the trend.

The number of women legislators declined nationwide after the Nov. 2 elections, according to recent studies by Rutgers University and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of the nation’s 7,382 state legislators, 23.3 will be women in 2011, down from the current 24.5 percent.

Before Tuesday, Missouri had 44 women legislators out of its 197 lawmakers. The election pushed the number of women who will serve in Jefferson City to 46.

In Kansas, there are now 46 women among 165 lawmakers, or 28 percent, down from 50 before Tuesday’s elections.

Missouri Sen. Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, said it’s too soon to know why Missouri held steady. She said more women are needed, not fewer.

“I’m just a firm believer if you don’t have a seat at the table you’re probably on the menu. That goes for any group,” she said. “You need to have a statehouse that reflects the population of the state.”

Kansas Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, said she was uncertain what led to the national decline of women in state legislatures.

“There certainly does seem to be an increased number of women coming forward nationally,” she said. “But I just can’t explain why it’s dropped in the statehouse.”


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