The Maryland Democratic party is setting aside half of certain elected positions for women. Men will be unable to run against women for these posts. Similarly, women won’t be able to run against men for the other half of the slots.
The jobs in question are on Democratic “central committees,” regarded as a stepping stone for more important and prestigious elected positions. In Maryland, and elsewhere, women lag behind men when it comes to being elected to office. The set asides are intended to change this state of affairs even though there is no evidence that it is the result of anything other than potential candidates’ decisions about whether to run and voters’ decisions about whom they prefer.
The Democratic National Committee has required equal numbers of men and women on party central committees for decades. In many jurisdictions, the party complies by appointing females to achieve gender balance that elections don’t produce. In some jurisdictions, the appointed members aren’t permitted to vote or give floor speeches, but apparently that’s no longer the case anywhere in Maryland.
Thus, there is already gender balance on the central committee.
But state chairman Kathleen Matthews, wife of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, isn’t satisfied with a quota for female membership on Maryland central committees. She’s imposing a quota for elected female membership. The only way to achieve this is through gender-segregated elections.
For example, if a district has two seats on the central committee, one will be a “girl seat,” the other a “boy seat.” As one critic of this arrangement points out, if he is happy with the male representative but unhappy with the female one, he can’t run against her. Instead, he must recruit a female to run. And, of course, voters will be unable to vote for both candidates of their choice if both of them are of the same gender.
Is this arrangement lawful? Perhaps. The Fourth Circuit, in Bachur v. Democratic National Party, upheld Maryland’s rule that half of its national convention delegates must be male and half female. Courts seem to accord a considerable amount of deference to decisions of political parties as to how they will operate.
That’s unfortunate. Identity politics has already eroded free speech rights on college campuses. Now, it is beginning to intrude on elections — in other words, democracy — by depriving voters, in some cases, of the right to vote for the candidate of their choice.