The first time I got to vote, it was on New Zealand’s 2011 Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) referendum. It was exciting to be able to have a voice on how our electoral system works in my first democratic experience.
I subsequently got to study under Nigel Roberts, one of the co-authors of the MMP reforms, while earning my public policy and political science qualifications. Having learnt what a significant impact different electoral systems have on both representing peoples’ views – in how they translate votes to seats – and how well government functions; I became interested in which design features work the best at achieving these goals.
Being inspired to follow US politics by the 2008 election, I saw the unfair results in national elections (like 2000), and dysfunctional legislative outcomes with divided government causing gridlock. So, naturally, I was excited to find in FairVote an organization dedicated to fixing these problems, out of our shared values for fairness and effectiveness in representation. Regardless of your political views, everyone should have a real opportunity to have their views represented; to see legislative agendas implemented, to test if policy ideas work (or not), and be judged accordingly by the voters. Those are the consequences elections should have. After all, gridlock and dysfunction are not representative of anyone’s views of what government should be doing.
This internship provides the opportunity to apply and grow my knowledge on electoral system reform, to see how citizens can go about advancing these reforms from good theory into reality, and to help see that elections have the consequences voters want to see. I will be assisting the research department with reports ranging from county to congressional elections, and contributing blog posts highlighting certain findings.
By the end of this experience, I hope to have developed the skills that will let me further a career in public policy. Ideally I will have made connections that allow me to continue to work on electoral issues specifically (or income issues, alternatively). And I’m optimistic that I will be able to produce work that contributes to FairVote’s success. Overall, I’m absolutely enthusiastic to be involved with this amazing organization, and to work on these important issues.
Stephen is a 2016 Research Intern at FairVote. Learn more about FairVote's Democracy Fellowships and Internship opportunities on our Employment page.