Voices & Choices

Meet the team: Brian Riley

Meet the team: Brian Riley

Hello there! I am Brian Riley, a government major in my second year at Colby College in Maine, and a research intern here for the month of January. I first heard of FairVote last spring, only four days after Tom Brady won his NFL-record sixth Super Bowl, at a talk given by FairVote’s President and CEO Rob Richie. There, I listened intently as I learned about the organization, its mission, and the promising prospect of ranked choice voting -- a process I experienced firsthand while voting in Maine’s 2018 midterm elections. At the time, I recognized the problem of wasted votes and plurality winners in elections featuring three or more candidates, but was unaware of the work that FairVote and others were doing on the issue. I left that talk with an enlightened understanding of RCV, an appreciation for the work that the organization was doing, and a desire to see the system implemented nationally and to help if I could.

Although I go to school in Maine, I have lived my entire life in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Contrary to what one might think, it is not a major manufacturer of carbonated beverages, but is instead named after a colonial governor whose ancestors probably burped a lot. Growing up, I loved playing baseball, and I became an avid runner as a member of my school’s cross country team in high school. I was fortunate to have been indoctrinated into the great world of Boston sports, and have enjoyed watching all the great players and teams the city has had. At Colby, I’ve continued to run as a hobby while also playing on the school’s ultimate frisbee team, and enjoy singing and playing piano when I have the time. And as much as I’ve enjoyed Boston’s success, I have derived almost as much pleasure from watching various New York teams fail.

Academically, I have been interested in history for as long as I can remember having any academic interest at all, but I developed a special fondness for both the history of the United States and of antiquity, specifically the histories of ancient Greece and Rome. As I learned more about the politics and thought of people living thousands of years ago, I grew more interested in those of today. And, as I looked more and more at the present state of American politics, I recognized the need to improve them. As fun as tribalism can be in sports, its presence in contemporary politics is disturbing. This tribalism is one of the many stains on modern American democracy, and it is only one of many unfortunate factors contributing to the extreme partisanship and dysfunction facing the nation. 

I believe that the current political climate calls for active engagement rather than passive indifference. There exists in America the widespread fallacy that government and politics is one giant waste of time, and it has led many to approach it apathetically and nihilistically. What results is flawed understandings and uninformed clichés about what is actually going on in government, and nuance is ignored completely. Moreover, such behavior surrenders what power individuals do have into the hands of those who have the motivation and power to, for better or worse, pay attention and act within the system. I think it necessary that I not sit idly by, and decided to involve myself in whatever way I could. I’m glad to have the chance to do so with FairVote.

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