My Internship at the Fair Elections Legal Network and Campus Vote Project

by Shelby Kestler, Intern

When it came to applying for internships this summer I knew I wanted something different than the typical Capitol Hill or PAC internships often found in Washington, DC.  As a rising senior at the Catholic University of America and a three-year resident of the District, I have experienced the rush of summer interns from across the country filling the metro on the way to the Hill, sporting their ID badges. This summer, I was looking for something different.

I have considered attending law school and am passionate about people’s right to vote so the position at the Fair Elections Legal Network’s Campus Vote Project immediately intrigued me.  FELN’s staff includes a team of lawyers working to fight restrictions that make it harder for people to register and cast a ballot. The small collaborative staff offered me the opportunity to work closely with my supervisors and take on more responsibility than your typical summer intern.

Throughout my internship I worked closely with Mike Burns the Director for Campus Vote Project. One of the major projects I was assigned early on in my internship was to find out which colleges in Indiana, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire distribute student IDs that are compliant with the respective state’s voter ID laws.  It was a time consuming project that required me to reach out to a large number of campuses.  Once I had determined which universities did not distribute voter ID compliant student IDs, I helped draft a letter that was sent to these universities urging them to change their student IDs so their students could use them as voter ID. The  project came full circle when Mike received a call from a university asking if their current ID fits the standards and how they can change them if that wasn’t the case.

I was also given the opportunity to participate in various conference calls and meetings with organizations across the country concerning the issue of voting rights and increasing voter registration among students.  I was amazed at the enthusiasm people expressed concerning the subject, but I was also surprised at the discussions about those who see increasing student voting as a partisan and controversial issue.  It was exciting to eventually sit in on a conference call without my supervisor and be asked my opinion on matters concerning student voting.

My internship at the FELN was very rewarding. The issues I was able to address within student voting helped me realize my love of electoral politics.  I have not been able to find the answer to the age-old question of why young people don’t vote, but my time at the FELN has inspired me to pursue a career to help address and change this problem.

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