I can’t remember not enjoying an election season. However, I can’t remember a perfect election season. The need for electoral reform to maximize inclusion and preserve our nation’s founding principles is paramount to me, and FairVote advocates for a better system. As a 2015 Democracy Fellow and recent graduate of Howard University’s Department of Political Science, I’m just in time for an adventurous cycle of political engagement.
As graduation transformed from a distant idea to a fast-approaching reality, I began to seriously weigh my future career goals. The budding 2016 election season excited me. I knew that I wanted to play a role in shaping the political dialogue around participation in and access to a fair democracy. Studying in the nation’s capital afforded me the opportunity to complement my classroom experience with numerous policy-focused internships, including in the U.S. House of Representatives and Department of Justice. I was enthusiastic to find a job that would fully utilize my education background in a nurturing and professional environment.
Electoral reform became a major piece of my academic narrative during my time overseas. While at the University of Amsterdam, my studies focused on international relations and conflict governance. I recognized civic engagement and inclusion as a common source of contention around the world. Whether evaluating intra-state ethnic violence in sub-Saharan Africa or long-standing international disputes in the Middle East, I noticed that marginalized groups lacked fair representation due to structural barriers and deficiencies blocking access to the government. When I returned stateside, I focused my honors thesis on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s efforts to impact the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
My interests in voting rights and advocacy led me to FairVote’s website during my job search.
Although there are myriad organizations with similar objectives, I was drawn to FairVote’s unique initiatives for improving the democratic systems throughout the United States. It was interesting to read about the utility of multi-member districts and ranked choice voting. At one point, I thought to myself, “Wow! These ideas are really good. Why aren’t others talking about them?” The uncommon, yet simple, reforms were intriguing, so I made the decision to apply to the fellowship program. Being able to work simultaneously on political messaging and policy enactment as a recent graduate appealed to me.
As a full-time fellow, FairVote marks the start of an important chapter in my professional development. I’m ecstatic to dive into the complexities of various local, state, and national electoral reforms. The tools I plan to gain in interpersonal communication, data analysis, and grassroots organizing from the awesome staff of researchers and campaigners will undoubtedly prove beneficial in future endeavors. It is important to me that I continue to refine my qualitative and quantitative skills while learning valuable lessons in public outreach. No matter what opportunities may come next, I am confident that I will enjoy my fellowship with FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy.
Demarquin Johnson is a 2015 Advocacy Fellow at FairVote. Do you want to apply for a FairVote Fellowship? Find more information here: http://www.fairvote.org/who-we-are/internships-and-employment/fellowships/