Meet the reformer: Aaron Hamlin, the man behind approval voting
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
We study and advance better voting methods. We have a focus on approval voting, which empowers voters to choose as many candidates as they want — most votes wins. This addresses vote splitting, always lets you support your honest favorite, and tends towards a more consensus winner.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
We use the world's worst voting method. It's really bad.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
I helped pass out fliers for a local candidate while I was in grad school. It was freezing cold and drizzly, but I powered on!
What was your biggest professional triumph?
After we got our initial funding at the end of 2017, I was able to hire strong staff so that our team — collaborating with our partners in Fargo, N.D. — helped bring approval voting to its first U.S. city. And that all happened in under a year.
And your most disappointing setback?
Taking so long for initial funding. Those were precious missed years that could have gone towards empowering voters with better elections.
How does some aspect of your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I try to merge sound reasoning and good ethics. For instance, my background is in the social sciences, so I apply that to the way we hire, going as far as blinding ourselves to candidates' names. Our organization is very outcome-oriented so we focus only on pertinent metrics instead of trivialities like in-your-seat time. I also go out of my way to deliver on employee benefits. It makes organizational sense as it allows employees to focus on their work and stay with us longer. But it's also just the right thing to do.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Be sure to sleep and exercise.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Vegan Rocky Road. Chocolate with almonds and chocolate chips made from Ripple-brand pea milk.
West Wing or Veep?
I'd rather watch the last season of The Good Place.
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Probably reading a dorky article I just found.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
One of my hobbies is lock-picking. I taught myself in college and now attend meetings of the lock-picking group TOOOL.
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Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.
This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.
In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.
Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.
The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.