Out West student blog

50 Nifty United States...and 127 Ballot Measures (and counting)

Cheesman Park sits right outside my window and it is truly beautiful as the sun sets. Also, all the runners make me guilty enough to run.


By Princess Umodu
Political Science Major, C/O 2017
Elections Intern at the National Conference of State Legislatures

My time in Denver started almost immediately after three months studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Needless to say, I am eternally grateful for the week that I had at home to re-acclimate myself to life in the US. Though I spent much of that time sleeping at strange hours and bemoaning the lack of good bread and cheese, I also used that time to prepare for my internship in Denver with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To be honest, I had not researched much about the organization. I only knew that I would be working primarily on ballot measures, specifically NCSL’s ballot measures database which is updated every year. All this is to say, I had no idea what I would be walking into the first day in the office. Having been to Colorado Springs, but never Denver, I arrived two days early to acclimate myself and figure out what I was going to do for the next two months. Thankfully, being from Southern California allowed me some insight into (and some enjoyment of) the warm weather. I soon learned, through direct observation and experience, that frequent afternoon rain and thunderstorms would also become an intrinsic part of my time in Denver. Still, I was excited. On my first day of work, I woke up early, put on the outfit I had set out the night before and set off to the office.

Previously, I had imagined something akin to my last internship in Taipei, Taiwan, a smaller office crammed between an army recruitment post and a 7-11. About twenty people worked as full-time staff on the second floor, whereas I and the full-time, year-round interns made our home on the third floor. My mental construction of what my workspace and environment would be shattered as I approached my building. It was a very big building, three floors, some enormous amount of square footage, revolving doors, and a lobby, not to mention, a staff of over 100 people, not including the DC office. At that moment, I realized this would not be an internship where I sat around waiting to fetch coffee. This was a real job with real deadlines and real people relying on the work that I was doing.

Like I stated above, my job was (and is) to gather the ballot measures from all 50 states as they become qualified. Feel free to check out the 2016 ballot measures here.(http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/ballot-measures-dat...) Along with keeping the measure database updated, I track and circulate poignant news about ballot measures to various members of my department, compile talking points for my direct supervisor when she gets information requests or interviewed by the press, search for and record new legislation regarding the initiative and referendum process (only available in 24 states and particularly popular in the Western United States), and whatever else needs to be done on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Overall, I am NCSL’s primary stop for ballot measure knowledge, a role I never in my life would have thought to fill. This upcoming week, I will be working on a presentation for my supervisor regarding the big trends in ballot measures this year, to be given at NCSL’s annual Legislative Summit. As Wendy, my supervisor, says, I’ll never be bored at work.

Outside of work, inspired by Colorado’s reputation for the great outdoors and the park that resides just outside my window, I have taken up running and general working out, which to anyone who knows me is an absolutely incredible and almost unbelievable notion. Though I have spent the majority of the last month indoors and studying for the LSAT, I hope to do some of Colorado’s more fun (read: easy) hikes and some water sports as well. Looking back on the last month shows me how much I have accomplished, but as I feel time race ever forward, I know Denver has so much more for me to see, eat, and do.

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