Voices & Choices

Meet the Team: Ian Theisen

Meet the Team: Ian Theisen

As a senior at the University of Maryland, I joined FairVote to work as a development and communications intern for the Spring, 2018 semester. My interest in politics, specifically elections, began during the historic, 2008 presidential election.

I was enthralled by the choice between the young, intelligent junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama and the experienced, well-versed senior senator from Arizona, John McCain. The campaign made me long for the day I could vote. It was not so much the fiery and divisive nature of the battle between the candidates that interested me, but instead, the intersection of voter demographics and voting patterns that drew me in.

The ability to predict the likely outcomes of elections with demographics and polling numbers peaked my interest in politics, but it was not until the 2014 midterm elections that I actually got to participate in the process and vote. I remember everybody at my polling place clapping after the election official announced I was a first time voter. That election turned out as many predicted, and it was when I first became interested in electoral reform.

During the 2014 midterms, I learned about and saw the disproportionate impact that voter ID laws had on people of color. These oppressive laws forced those voters to become even more underrepresented in politics and government. This among other barriers placed upon people of color, have influenced my educational and career path. I began studying criminology, criminal justice, and African-American studies at UMd to better understand the systemic oppression placed upon people of color in the criminal justice and electoral systems. My passion for systemic electoral change blossomed, as I continued learning about structures of oppression throughout my coursework.

Apart from my education, for the last five summers, I have volunteered for the Washington Spirit where I have been able to see the impact of representation firsthand. For centuries women have been locked out of many professions, including professional sports and politics, and the ability to help a team that elevates women as role models for all children is special. The representation of women in professional sports helps dispel the notion that professional sports are only for men in the same way that representation of women in government helps dismiss the misguided idea that  politics is only for men. Today, women are not properly represented in government; women comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 25 percent of Congress. This massive disparity is a result of the systemic failure of the current electoral system.

As I learned about gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement, and voter roll purges that disproportionately affected voters of color during the 2016 elections, coupled with the deep partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans and the lack of women in government, it became very apparent to me that America’s democracy was not working.  My focus and passion shifted from perfecting the voting system already in place, to replacing the system with a more representative and effective one. This is what makes working with FairVote so rewarding.

FairVote’s advocacy for ranked choice voting and multi-winter congressional districts would allow for people of color to be better represented in politics and government, allow for more women and people of color to be elected into office, and allow for all political ideologies to be better represented. I am excited for the opportunity to work for an organization that advocates for meaningful structural reform of America’s electoral system, so it can be more representative and inclusive of everyone.


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