Andrea Denault is an activist and human rights advocate currently working on a campaign to bring our community a better way to vote.
In a brief summary, what do you do?
I am a campaign organizer. Currently, I am working on a ballot initiative to get the city of Fargo to switch its voting system to approval voting. Approval voting means that instead of picking one candidate you can vote for all the candidates you approve of and the person with the most votes wins. It gives us a more mathematically accurate reflection of what voters really want. It’s an ambitious campaign to wage. If Fargo decides to adopt it, we will be the first city in American history to do so.
What’s the best part about your work?
The fact that I get to reach out to a broad array of people to be successful. It’s something that transcends industries, classes of people, gender – everything. For this particular issue, the only way it works is if everyone is on board. Until 120k people know about this, I can’t rest. To most, the topic of voting methods can be quite boring. I need to get people interested enough to tell the next person. So I have spent my time seeking out influential people. I have coffee basically every day with someone I admire at Young Blood. It’s fun to have an excuse to talk to so many types of people.
Why do you care about approval voting?
I care about it because I understand the issue well enough. Our current method allows unpopular candidates to win. It’s a mathematical flaw. Someone that is less popular can still win.
What do you wish people in the Ladyboss community (and the full community) knew?
I wish that they understood the problem of our current voting system. If you saw the break down of our last city commissioner election results, it was basically a 6-way tie. The two people that won had only 16 and 17 percent of the vote, respectively. These numbers are not convincing. What those numbers actually tell us is that most people voted AGAINST the candidates who won.
Approval voting is a superior method that mathematicians and statisticians champion as being the closest voting method to a true democracy that is mathematically possible. This wouldn’t only solve things in Fargo. There are 300 jurisdictions nationwide who have done away with plurality (choose-one) voting because of all of its flaws.
What is your plan after your work on this campaign?
I will be working for the ACLU. My background is in human rights. During the last legislative session in North Dakota, I was a lobbyist for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition. We took on issues that impacted the LGBTQ, immigrant, refugee, and Native American communites. I am particularly passionate about Native advocacy work. My dad is from the reservation (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and the more educated I become, the more I am able to see the way that colonization has affected and still affects my family today. I became heavily galvanized during the occupation at Standing Rock and spent four months at the camps.
What are some of your other passions?
I really like holistic topics. I have been studying herbalism and bodywork for over ten years. I am actually going to Peru in November to study Amazonian shamanism and complete yoga teacher training at School Yoga Institute.
How can the Ladyboss group support what you are doing?
Generally speaking, if you want to stand in solidarity with women, you would be in favor of this campaign. The current system often ruins chances for hyper qualified women as they suffer from a flaw in our election system called “vote-splitting.” When multiple popular candidates share a similar base they split up the vote and can elect a less popular candidate by default of a bad system. We need a lot of help to get the word out through door knocking, phone banking, and social media promotion. Anyone who wants to help out can email me at email@example.com or go to www.reformfargo.org to learn more!