Posted by Maya Efrati on October 06, 2016
Usually when I tell people that I chose to go to law school knowing that I didn’t want to be a practicing attorney – the type that goes to court every day and litigates criminal cases, or the kind that writes contracts between multinational companies or small businesses – I get a confused face and a “wait, what?” Yes, that’s right, I respond, I want to work in policy. And I’ve been fortunate enough not only to have that opportunity this year, but to work on policy that sits at the very core of all our other fundamental rights.
If our right to vote is interfered with, denied or diluted, we can’t hold our government accountable nor have our legislative representation actually reflect our society’s political and social values and ideals. Yet today, this right is under attack through methods such as gerrymandering, burdensome voter ID laws, and cutting polling places and hours, which work to dilute votes and limit voter turnout.
But of course, voting is not a right at all – or at least, not according to our Constitution. Not many people are aware that while we have amendments that ban discrimination based on age, sex, and race, there is no affirmative right to vote in our founding document. And while that document guarantees so much else, and while we have amendments that ban discrimination based on age, sex, and race, it has not yet been able to protect that basic right that underlies all the others. Without the ability to hold our legislators accountable –without a voice in the making of the laws– we can’t do anything. This is just one of many reasons that I’ve chosen to work at FairVote as a Legal Fellow; one of the many injustices and structures that urgently need to be reformed. Meaningful electoral reform is not just a goal to itself; it would positively influence a variety of other critical facets of our democracy.
My past work and educational background all centers around the topics of government accountability, justice, and reforming the institutions of our democracy. I previously worked at the Peres Center for Peace in Israel (it’s way past time to figure out the Israeli-Palestinian peace process), on a large Congressional campaign in Los Angeles (yes, we won), with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (a union which fights for blue-collar workers like janitors). During law school, I worked at the Michigan Innocence Clinic (the fact that there are actually innocent people, brothers and uncles and mothers, serving time in prison for crimes they did not do, is one of our greatest injustices), and at the Center for American Progress, as part of their Legal Progress team, largely focusing on campaign finance rules (and those that break them) and judicial structural processes. These opportunities taught me the importance of hard work, and the need for someone – in fact, many ‘someones’ – to fight for a better America, every day. I’m incredibly grateful to be even a small part of that.
My favorite part of the job? Getting to collaborate with other fellows and staff – working together to be that much better.