Some absentee ballots in a few Garden State political races are still being counted from last week's election, but there’s one thing we know for sure.

Come January, when a new Legislature is sworn into office, women will remain seriously under-represented in New Jersey.

“Women make up about 51% of the population, and as of right now they make up about 31% of our state Legislature,” said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

She said it matters to have more women in office because research shows “women are more likely than men who serve in legislatures to have as a priority issues that affect women, families and children.”

She said all women do not agree to one approach to these issues, “but some of those issues rise to the top.”

Walsh also pointed out that “women are more likely than their male counterparts to work across the aisle. Women of both parties come together on issues they can agree on.”

“We also know that women are more likely to believe that government should operate more transparently, that there should be less of the behind-closed-doors kinds of meetings, back-room deals and much more openness.”

“Public policy is better when the people that represent citizens look like the citizens," she said.

New Jersey ranks 20th in the nation when it comes to female representation in the state Legislature. The top states with women representatives are in the west: Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Washington.

As recently as 15 years ago, New Jersey was in the bottom 10 states for how many women were represented in the state Senate and Assembly.

She said it is also important to point out many elected officials on the local levels are dominated by men.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” she said. "We need both parties to be working hard to recruit and support women in winnable races.”

There are 37 women serving in the Legislature. In the state Senate, there are 10 — nine Democrats and one Republican. In the Assembly. there are 21 Democratic and 6 Republican women.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at