Aaron Hamlin: Serial Advocate, Nonprofit founder, and Voting Visionary
As the 2018 Midterm Election season rolls around, voting is on many American minds. Though one man, Aaron, thinks about voting all the time- daring to challenge inadequate systems that the rest of us barely consider.
Rethinking What Others Dare Not Rethink
Aaron Hamlin is the thoughtful and knowledgeable executive director (and co-founder) of The Center for Election Science, an NGO aimed at changing the face of American voting for the better. Before Aaron was tasked with bringing a facelift to ineffectual voting, he founded and was also executive director for the Male Contraceptive Initiative.
Aaron has a few gripes with our current voting systems: “right now we’re using the worst voting system to elect people into office that make vital decisions, which in turn affect our lives in dramatic ways. Our current choose-one voting method hurts our democracy terribly.” But elections were not always his focus.
A Tale of Two Causes
He came to a crossroad where he was split between two wonderful organizations: one concerning male contraceptive development and one on voting methods. Aaron found that some of his close friends were voting against their own interests on issues that mattered to them, and soon became fascinated with voting methods and voter behaviors. The decision and need for research was apparent.
“I had a lot of pressure to choose a focus. Ultimately the voting one to me was more important. Yet I felt really lucky to be in a position to work on such high impact causes. Both of them are definitely neglected spaces here.”
Aaron’s often drawn to projects that are two-fold in nature: organizations whose causes are both high impact and otherwise neglected by the mainstream.
How Can We Fix a Broken System?
Aaron says there are quite a few metrics by which to gauge a voting method. Some things to consider: How much utility does that method offer when it produces a result? Not only should voting methods choose a good winner, but it should gauge the temperature of the all the candidates accurately. And are people free to run without fear of being labeled a spoiler?
Officials on Capitol Hill often have a direct conflict of interest. They were voted in a certain way, and it’s less likely they’d vote against the methods that got them elected. One of the ways Aaron seeks to effect change is through ballot initiatives. “Ask people directly; they’re in a better place to decide how officials get elected.” Ultimately, Aaron’s goal is to evaluate voting methods and take real steps to implement them, so people can reap the benefits of his work.
Aaron’s Equation for Success
How does Aaron stay optimistic in a bleak political climate? One word: funding. “Having funding dictates my outlook. Money provides opportunity to get things done. Before, it was really challenging to see progress. But now the path is pretty open. Combine having financial resources with a winning idea and a great team, and now you’re really lined up to make great things happen”
Aaron says it’s all about the people you surround yourself with. His advice for anyone seeking their passion? “Have a really good network; focus on other people who share that passion. And put yourself in those circles, and support them in their work that you’d also like to see supported.”
Speaking of voting, check out this Octavius Valentine Catto deck below. Catto was a champion for African-American voting rights!