Posted by Ben Fogarty on July 08, 2016
I am a rising second year at the University of Chicago majoring in Economics and Public Policy. At school, I am involved with the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and am a member of Friends of Washington Park Youth, an organization that pairs primary school students living in Chicago’s South Side with mentors from the University of Chicago. In the classroom, my primary academic interests currently include electoral reform and education policy. Throughout my life, I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in politics, but I only recently began to figure out how exactly I wanted to get involved.
Specifically, my interest in electoral reform began when I took a sequence on the classic works of social and political thought during my first year of college. The great diversity of political thought that I encountered made me realize how political systems should be constantly changing and adapting alongside their societies. In light of this realization, the grim statistics about Americans’ sense of political efficacy signaled to me that American democracy needs to be scrutinized and reformed, so it can better represent its citizens. Hence, when I read FairVote’s listing on my school’s summer internship database, I knew that I wanted to spend my summer working here to build a better democracy.
Looking back, however, I think that I had an unknown desire to work on electoral reform for a much longer time. Shortly after turning eighteen, I remember telling my friends about how excited I was to cast my first ballot later that year. It shocked me to learn that a number of them did not plan on voting because they felt as if their votes did not matter. These sentiments disheartened me as someone who has always placed a high value on political engagement and forced me to acknowledge how flawed the American political system had become. While at the time I did not know how or even if these flaws could be resolved, I still felt as though something had to change. Now, having learned more about electoral reform, I see that there are solutions to these flaws, and working at FairVote gives me the chance to work on these solutions.
Overall, these experiences also reflect the main things that I would like to take away from my time at FairVote. The first is a knowledge that there are feasible ways to improve the American democratic system and that there are groups of people working on these improvements. It is easy to get trapped in the belief that the political process will never advance past its current state. When I leave FairVote, though, I hope to leave with a belief that the American political system can and will one day be transformed into a more inclusive and more fully representative system. Second, I hope to gain the ability to take my convictions, that government should meet the needs of its people and that democracy should leave people feeling as if their opinions matter, and advocate for them at all levels of government. From national government to local government and beyond, I believe that everyone can benefit from having stronger, fairer, more fully representative democracies where everyone’s voice gets heard.
Ben is the 2016 Communications Intern at FairVote. Learn more about FairVote's Democracy Fellowships and Internship opportunities on our Employment page.