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Senior Researcher, Montana

Sightline Institute
Sightline Institute
Employment Types:
Remote; Montana, USA
80,000 – 99,000 USD per year
Posted on:

About Sightline Institute:

Founded in 1993, Sightline Institute is committed to making Cascadia—the region stretching from Alaska to northern California and from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountain states—a global model of sustainability, with strong communities, a green economy, and a healthy environment. In programs on housing and urbanism, democracy, climate and energy, and farms and forests, we identify and promote reforms that yield outsized improvements for the region’s people and nature.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research center, Sightline provides research reports, articles, and commentary; books, maps, graphics, and tools; framing and messaging guidance; and a daily news digest. We advise, inform, and advocate to public officials, change makers, and the media, and we collaborate with diverse allies and unconventional coalitions in pursuit of our mission. Sightline is among the largest and best known public policy think tanks in the region. Learn more at

Opportunity for Impact: Open primaries and ranked-choice voting

In November 2020, with Sightline’s support, Alaska voters approved a citizens’ initiative to convert all state and federal elections to nonpartisan, top-four open primaries and ranked-choice general elections. This model reform holds great potential not only in Alaska but in other states as well. It eliminates the party primaries that exacerbate polarization and limit voters’ choices. It yields winners who command broad—usually majority—support. It discourages negative campaigning. And it encourages elected officials to focus on problem solving rather than grandstanding to their political base.

In 2022, Sightline will expand its democracy program into Montana, where we will work to support multi-party coalitions now emerging that are building on lessons from other states such as Alaska to further election reform through legislation or ballot initiatives. We seek a senior researcher to develop and carry out this strategy and see it all the way through adoption and implementation over the next several years. (We will be doing the same thing in Idaho on a similar timeline.)

Beyond these election reforms, we anticipate the senior researcher will contribute to other democracy reforms, such as ballot access. They may also contribute to other Sightline strategies. For example, Sightline’s housing and urbanism program has a track record of winning urban zoning reforms that enable construction of abundant housing in walkable neighborhoods, thereby boosting prosperity and livability, shrinking carbon footprints, bolstering property rights, and keeping starter homes within reach for new home buyers. This strategy has much to offer in cities such as Missoula and Bozeman.

Sightline hires staff members for the long term, and our initial programmatic plans (open primaries and ranked-choice voting, housing) are starting places rather than permanent commitments. We will learn as we go and adjust.

About the Senior Researcher position:

The Senior Researcher will lead our work in Montana as principal advocate and coalition participant, and as researcher, writer, and communicator. They will make the case for open primaries and ranked choice voting along with other specific reforms in public policies at the state (and possibly local) level. They will develop and implement strategies for using information and communications to help win passage of these reforms, typically in coordination with—and often as quiet partners in—pragmatic cross-partisan coalitions. To that end, the senior researcher will develop a mastery of Sightline’s democracy-reform research and contribute to it, including voting methods such as open primaries and ranked-choice voting. The senior researcher will research and develop policy proposals; write articles, talking points, and policy memos; give presentations; advocate for reforms; conduct outreach; serve as a resource to the media; and sometimes lobby public officials. As important, they will cultivate relationships with leaders across the political spectrum, from center-right to left, and in diverse institutions, from tribes to chambers of commerce, and from labor unions to churches.

The senior researcher will report to the Executive Director; receive guidance from the Senior Director, Communication and Campaigns; and collaborate with the rest of Sightline’s democracy team. They will benefit from being part of a high-functioning cadre of other researchers, communicators, and advocates, supported by a well-run administrative and fundraising operation based in Seattle.

The Ideal Candidate:

Sightline is a think tank, not a pressure group, so our influence depends on the depth and breadth of its researchers’ expertise and their persuasiveness in presenting their arguments. We aim to draw attention to and support for data-backed solutions to specific public problems through close engagement in policy debates. And we seek strategic deployment of our skills in the multilayered complexities of political processes, typically as part of creative coalitions. The successful candidate will have a record of effecting influence in at least some of these manners. We are specifically interested in candidates who have:

  • A track record of influencing policy progress through analysis, writing, public presentations, generating media attention, advocacy, and strategic engagement in complicated coalitions
  • At least seven years of relevant professional experience using ideas and information to advance the public good---preferably in the field of this position but at least in similar or related ones. We care more about your skills than your subject-matter expertise
  • Roots and/or residence in Montana
  • Demonstrated experience building respectful and effective relationships and collaborating with people who hold different values and political beliefs than your own
  • A pragmatic and long-term vision about policy reforms and political change
  • Excellent research, analysis, and data synthesis skills
  • The ability to be self-directed and motivated and to work independently
  • Commitment to Sightline’s mission and values

Flexibility: We most likely will hire a candidate who is at the “senior researcher” level of skill and experience, as just described. However, we will consider candidates who are more experienced and skilled, at Sightline’s “director” level or who are less experienced, at Sightline’s “researcher” level. Duties, expectations, and compensation would ramp up or down, commensurately. We look for the overall promise of the candidate to contribute to our mission over the long term. Therefore, if you are somewhat underqualified or overqualified for the position as described but still feel you could be a good fit, please apply.

Compensation and Benefits:

The salary range (for senior researcher) is $80-99,000 (plus 10 percent retirement, as noted below). Candidates at the director or researcher levels would be eligible for salary bands above or below this range. Sightline is committed to supporting team members along their career pathway by encouraging learning and providing mentoring and training. Employees can earn annual merit raises and periodic promotions.

We offer a robust package of benefits including a 401(k) plan with employer contribution of 10 percent of salary (added to—not subtracted from—pay so, for example, a $90,000 salary at Sightline is equivalent to a $99,000 salary at an organization that makes no employer contribution to retirement). Benefits also include full medical and dental insurance for the employee and partial coverage for dependents; four weeks of paid vacation, ten paid holidays, and two weeks of paid sick leave per year; and a three-month paid sabbatical leave every seven years. Sightline’s staff members work hard but enjoy balanced lives and a collegial organizational culture.


This position is based in Montana. Candidates willing to relocate from elsewhere are welcome to apply, although we are inclined to hire candidates who have roots in the state.

Sightline is a virtual-first organization. We have an office in Seattle, but most staff members work remotely. Our existing staff, contractors, and fellows are spread across Cascadia—in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—and beyond.

To Apply:

Please send us a resume and cover letter detailing your interest in the role and how your skills qualify you for it. Please include at least one writing sample of which you are sole author and that is similar to Sightline’s published works in its style and form of argument. For models of comparable work, you might review articles published by Sightline’s democracy team here. Also welcome are other supporting materials, such as other publications and videos of speeches or media appearances. We prefer that you assemble all application materials in a single PDF, labeled with your name. Send everything to Please also tell us in your email where you learned about this position; this information helps us streamline our recruiting processes.

The application deadline is May 6, 2022 and applications received by that date will be given priority, but we will accept applications until the position is filled. Zoom interviews will take place from mid April through mid May. We will likely invite finalists to complete a work assignment that is designed to test their skills in the specific functions required for the position. We anticipate extending an offer in early to mid June.

Sightline Institute is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Applicants will not be discriminated against because of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, national origin, citizenship status, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, medical condition, or any protected category prohibited by local, state or federal laws.

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