Ohio’s presidential primary was quickly approaching. As someone who had volunteered on campaigns since she was old enough to vote, I excitedly made plans with two (much less enthusiastic) friends to drive out to our local polling site together. However, I had to perform my civic duty solo once the democratic day of reckoning arrived; both of my friends weren’t able to vote due to a mix-up with their respective registrations.
That moment confirmed for me what I had thought all throughout my volunteer efforts: the way that the United States carries out its elections is deeply flawed. In my frustration, I came across FairVote’s website looking for ways to prevent what had happened to my friends. Though I was initially interested in FairVote’s work on getting more people out to the polls, I became further intrigued by their innovative ideas for electoral reform like ranked choice voting, multi-member districts, and the national popular vote. I soon realized that all the get-out-the-vote efforts in the world would only serve as a Band-Aid over our deeply wounded electoral system.t Grand-scale structural reforms are necessary to provide fair elections to citizens and fair representation to public offices.
And so, six months later, I’m extremely lucky to join FairVote’s team. As the Research Fellow, I’m analyzing the effectiveness of various electoral structures, focusing specifically on state legislative contests and the implementation of ranked-choice voting. I assist with research studies and perform quantitative analyses of the results in order to determine how to give voters a stronger voice, get more people out to voter, and increase people’s confidence in the electoral process.
This position at FairVote represents a marriage between the policy issue and the academic element that piques my interest the most. As a Political Science graduate, I’m fascinated with the use of data analysis to test the political theories found in dusty old textbooks. I hold the conviction that a theory must stand up to empirical tests to be considered valid. In addition to my studies, I took on multiple internships at think tanks throughout my college years, which further contributed to my belief that any policy decision must be based in objective and impartial research. When people ask what my political views are, I tend to quip “I’m an empiricist;” I believe that political decisions should stem from an evaluation of what, scientifically, will be the most effective rather than from a particular ideology.
This is why I have such faith in FairVote. This organization’s research has shown, time and time again, that fair representation and ranked choice voting can help increase turnout, boost voter satisfaction with the election process, and improve female and minority representation in our legislative systems. Something as monumentally important for American democracy as its electoral process requires serious, data-driven solutions, and FairVote has shown that they have the answers. I’m excited to join FairVote’s team and work on finding the solutions that will expand access to the ballot box for all Americans (and for my two friends in Ohio.)
Kelsey is a 2016 Research Fellow at FairVote. Learn more about FairVote's Democracy Fellowships and Internship opportunities on our Employment page.