I have long grappled with the concept and scope of “civic engagement.” Though I could barely define the term in high school, it manifested itself as I attended town hall meetings as a Boy Scout and mobilized my high school classmates to vote in a local referendum. As I ventured off to college, these experiences led to my focus on political science where I was formally introduced to civic engagement from an academic standpoint. I dove headfirst into the discipline and embraced my inner nerd as I philosophically debated what it means to be civically engaged in my theory courses and learned about the quantitative methods driving research in American politics. Peers would often question why I cared about politics, claiming my efforts were misguided and futile. Yet I always returned to my core belief that despite widespread cynicism, a future that consisted of a renewed sense of civic engagement was within reach.
Today, I have come to realize the democratic process itself, rather than the people running our democracy, is the most powerful medium to realize this future. Our electoral structures play a significant role in how our society expresses itself civically, particularly in regards to voting, the cornerstone of civic engagement. It is this understanding that motivates my desire to contribute to FairVote, an organization that has extensive experience working to reform these electoral structures.
As a Democracy Fellow, I am eager to learn about the advocacy process from a nonprofit perspective and begin to comprehend the range of stakeholders that have a hand in the sphere of electoral reform. Moreover, I look forward to collaborating with a team that is equally committed to this cause. I recognize, however, that I’m not going to change the world in my time here. I am consequently entering my fellowship with the goal of moving electoral reform in the direction of progress and expanding related conversations in the public domain. At a time when the American political system is deadlocked and our polis is disenchanted, the need to profoundly understand our electoral structures has never been greater. I am both humbled and thrilled to join the FairVote team as we advocate for a brighter future in American politics.
Elliot Louthen is a 2015 Advocacy Fellow at FairVote. Do you want to apply for a FairVote internship? Find more information here: http://www.fairvote.org/who-we-are/internships-and-employment/internships/