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The changing face of state legislatures.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There are more women, African Americans and Hispanics serving in state legislatures now than at any other time in our nation's history, according to a recent NCSL survey.

The number of women serving in legislatures has increased substantially in the past 30 years, from several hundred to 1,792--or 24.3 per cent of state legislative seats nationwide. African Americans now hold approximately 9 percent of all seats, and Latinos a little more than 3 percent.

Asian Americans and Native Americans each hold slightly more than 1 percent of all legislative seats.

More than any other minority group, African Americans have seen the greatest increases over the past four decades. In 1970, there were only 169 African-American lawmakers; today there are 628. "The greatest gains for African Americans came in the early to mid-1990s as a result of redistricting," says David Bositis, a senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "We are also seeing a growing number of African Americans elected to majority-white districts, and that is encouraging for the future."

Delaware Representative Joseph Miro, a Latino, is confident that the number of Latinos seeking elected office will continue to increase as well. "As the Latino community continues to grow and expand throughout the country, we will see a growing number of Latinos getting involved at the grassroots level and running for office," he says.

"We still need to continue to encourage the Latino community to get involved in the political process and exercise their right to vote, but I am very optimistic about the future."

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--Morgan Cullen, NCSL

                    LEGISLATORS      AMERICANS BY
                   BY RACE, 2009      RACE, 2009

Caucasian              86%               65.1%
African American        9%               13.4%
Latino                  3%               15.1%
Native American         1%                1.4%
Asian American          1%                  5%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Details
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Author:Cullen, Morgan
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:309
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