As a child of immigrants, I learned early on the importance and sacredness of the right to vote. Starting from a very young age, I experienced firsthand the struggles my parents, who were not citizens at the time, faced in order to be heard in the community. While many of our neighbors avoided polling places on Election Day, my mother and father yearned for the day when they could vote. Believing that there was nothing that I could do, I would listen silently as they expressed their concerns with the government and their ideas to change it.
However, as time went on, I began to notice that my parents’ voices would still most likely be silenced even after they obtained the right to cast a ballot. Growing up in Minnesota, I was very aware that the composition of our legislature was not reflective of the demographics, and as a result, neither were our policies. For example, my home state has only ever had four Asian American representatives serve in its legislature – even though we are the fastest growing ethnic group in the state. I was very frustrated by the idea that even after my parents voted, it was still unlikely that their interests as minorities would be represented in the bigger picture.
When I joined the debate team my freshman year of high school, I was exposed to an environment that prided itself on its diversity. After a few years in the activity, I developed the confidence to speak out and fight for those who were historically underrepresented. I started involving myself in groups that encouraged community involvement and voting rights, such as the League of Women Voters and Bloomington United for Youth, an organization to encourage youth participation in my hometown.
FairVote became the obvious next step, as this group not only has a vision, but a concrete plan to change the way our elections are held. Knowing that the current winner-take-all system is detrimental to the minority voice, I was determined to involve myself in the fight to achieve fair representation voting.
I am honored to be involved in such a great organization this summer. One day, I hope to see its reforms on a national scale. Given the fact that the population of the United States is constantly growing to include minorities and immigrants, it is essential that we focus on how they can be heard in government. I hope to contribute my diverse background to FairVote and support their fight for a more just and representative democracy.
Xiaojing is a 2016 Communications Intern at FairVote. Learn more about FairVote's Democracy Fellowships and Internship opportunities on our Employment page.