AQ Alumna Creating Change for Michigan Voters

Published on

by Sandra Mitchell '91

Katie Fahey ’11 is a testament that Aquinas grads make a world of difference.

Following the 2016 presidential election, frustration drove Katie to social media where she asked friends and family if they wanted to help her end gerrymandering, the manipulation of political voting boundaries.

“I didn’t want to feed into partisan bickering, so I took the angle that we should fix systems that we all don’t like and that aren’t being addressed,” said Fahey. "The idea that voters should choose their politicians instead of the other way around is pretty straightforward.”

This concept of creating a system that represents voters rather than politicians took on a life of its own, and what came next was beyond what Fahey could have imagined.

Voters Not Politicians (VNP), a nonpartisan ballot committee, was soon born – an organization that today is 10,000 volunteers strong. In a push to take politics out of the redistricting process, the group proposed a ballot initiative to create a citizens’ redistricting commission.

Since its inception less than two years ago, the all-volunteer effort made history, collecting votes in each of Michigan’s counties and submitting more than 425,000 signatures to the Board of State Canvassers. The number of signatures overwhelmingly surpassed the 315,654 signatures necessary to place a question before Michigan voters on the ballot in 2018.

Fahey credits Aquinas with preparing her to lead change. She not only graduated with dual majors – one in community leadership and another in sustainable business -- but she also immersed herself in extra-curricular activities, including founding and leading the Environmental Political Interactive Change (EPIC) student club, serving on Student Senate as well as vice president of Students Striving for Sustainability (S3) and acting as an AQ Ambassador.

Looking to accumulate real-world leadership experience and business acumen, Fahey interned with the Michigan-based grocery distributor and retailer SpartanNash, where she developed the organization’s first sustainability program. That internship turned into her first job, and today you can find her at the Michigan Recycling Coalition – though not for much longer.

“I’m about to hop on the campaign full-time as executive director,” said Fahey. “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I never imagined where it would go. I thought back to my classes where we talked about whether activism can be used for good and whether it can equate to change. Voters Not Politicians is making that a reality. My degrees in community leadership and business sustainability are critical for me as leader of an organization with a lot of volunteers. Also the liberal arts education gave me a broad understanding of so many things and has helped me figure out things such as how to build a website, understand constitutional language, talk to lawyers, to listen, to create environments that challenge people and are respectful to people, and create a solution that will lead to change that people want.”

Fahey also acknowledges her AQ professors, peers and staff as well as a number of Dominican Sisters with the growth and success of the citizens’ redistricting movement. She even returned to campus for a town hall meeting where students were able to join the discussion. “I felt so supported by my community,” said Fahey. “It was like coming home.”

As Fahey steps into her role as executive director of VNP, she will be leading conversations across the state to help citizens better understand the gerrymandering process and what is at stake.

“Politicians don’t have a lot of incentive to talk about the drawing of political lines, so we need to get out and educate people,” said Fahey. “VNP wants voters to decide for themselves. And, we’ll definitely be creating a presence on college campuses.”

And Aquinas will again welcome Fahey home.

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