Diversity of electeds: Elected officials should reflect the diversity of the population.

Insights & Analyses

  • Although the White population only makes up four in 10 residents in the Nine-County Bay Area, nearly three-quarters of all elected officials in the region are White.
  • People of color in the Nine-County Bay Area are underrepresented among elected officials (26 percent) compared to their share of the general population (60 percent).
  • Men are more likely to be in elected positions than women: 60 percent of elected officials are men in the Nine-County Bay Area. This gender gap holds true across all racial and ethnic groups except for Black elected officials, in which the proportion of women outweighs men.
  • Among the nine counties, San Mateo County has the highest overrepresentation of White elected officials compared to its population as a whole. 

Drivers of Inequity

In the past, Blacks were stripped of voting rights through violence, poll taxes, residency requirements, and literacy tests (which did not apply to illiterate Whites). Gerrymandering – the drawing of district lines to increase the odds of one group winning an election over another – was used in the past, and today, to dilute the political power of people of color. This is exacerbated in areas where people of color are geographically dispersed and is particularly true in at-large elections where one candidate represents several districts. Long hours and low pay for electoral work, and the high cost of running a campaign disproportionately disadvantages people of color and low-income candidates who have far less wealth than more affluent candidates who tend to be White.  

Strategies

Build community power: Strategies to increase political representation and power

Strategy in Action

Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute trains next generation of leaders. Since 2010, Urban Habitat’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute has been training leaders from underrepresented San Francisco Bay Area communities to serve on decision-making bodies. The institute empowers residents to become leaders on the issues that have the most direct impact on their neighborhoods: transportation, housing, jobs, and more. Graduates have won 35 seats on priority boards and commissions, including planning commissions, housing authorities, and rent boards. The program is being replicated in the Twin Cities, Sacramento, and elsewhere. Learn more.

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