Hello! My name is Nawar Jabbo and I am the electoral systems and reform research intern. I am a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where I am studying Political Science and English. Upon being selected to participate in the UCLA American Politics and Public Policy’s Quarter in Washington Program (CAPPP), I am interning at FairVote to pursue my research interests.
I was born and raised in Iraq and later relocated to San Diego, California. My experience growing up in an undemocratic system in the Middle East led me to value the opportunity to vote and elect government officials through a democratic process in which every person’s vote matters.
Voting is a fundamental characteristic of a well-functioning democracy as it is the most significant bridge between the American public and government leaders. Internationally, the U.S. is viewed as one of the world’s greatest democracies; however, U.S. voter turnout is consistently low compared to other democracies. In some states, the winner-take-all system discourages potential voters from letting their voices be heard and a part of the problem is the structural issues of the old-fashioned Electoral College system, which takes away the patriotic enthusiasm of voting from too many Americans in “fly-over” states.
I started gaining interest in the Electoral College system by studying the highly contested 2000 presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush. Bush’s marginal victory in Florida ensured him the entirety of the state’s 25 electoral votes and propelled him to a 271-266 victory, despite losing the overall popular vote. The winner-take-all system seemed to contradict the cumulative wishes of American voters.
During the 2016 presidential election, I saw firsthand the many flaws of the current system with which we elect the leader of the executive branch. Unfiltered campaign rhetoric, inability and refusal to respectfully compromise, and an overall unpleasant and hateful attitude among all of the candidates led to wide polarization. The consequences of the winner-take-all method of the electoral college system were on full display. As the two main party candidates were exchanging unpleasant comments about each other through the mass media, they only focused on a small number of battleground states and made little-to-no effort in too many fly-over states.
The 2016 election affected how I viewed the U.S. voting process and why advocating for reforms and deviating from a winner-take-all system is crucial to the American ideal of democracy.
I pursued an internship opportunity with FairVote because of the clear and simple message the organization puts forth: let all the voters decide who becomes president. The organization’s commitment to change the current outdated system with central reforms, such as ranked choice voting, will lead to a more cumulative and true democracy as individual voters in every state--not just the highly coveted swing states- will be empowered and eager to contribute their voices.
Having the opportunity to advocate for electoral reforms through FairVote enables me to learn more about how we can modify the American voting system to incorporate Americans across the spectrum. Being in a position to advocate for a systematic electoral change for the betterment of American democracy is very exciting and I am looking forward to it.