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Elections, Yoga, and Cubicles

Aug 3 2017

 

Image: Slightly different from my usual business-casual pantsuit. My mom snapped this picture of me when she visited. Photo: Rhina Rodriguez
 

By Jamie Rodriguez
B.A. Political Science, 2018
Elections Intern
National Conference of State Legislatures

 
Out West Student Blog

Student Blog

“Huh, I wonder if this is going to come up at work at all.”

I was driving in the car with my mom, who was visiting me in Denver for the weekend, and I had just gotten a CNN alert on my phone about the Election Integrity Commission's data requests. Over 40 states had refused to hand over the voter list information.

On Monday morning I returned to NCSL, which very purposefully resembles a modern capitol building, to a handful of information requests from state legislators. The grand, dramatic refusal by the states had made headlines, but now they needed the legal back-up. Most wanted to know how strictly information protected by other states' statutes and constitutions. They were/still are looking to craft legislation to protect their voter lists, possibly using their peer entities as models. I dissected the documents, attempting to discern which were model states (one was Kansas, commission vice chair Kris Kobach’s own home state) and consolidate the the information in an accessible and streamlined manner. In the shadows of this national story, I was in charge of answering their questions, and that was incredibly cool.

I distinctly remember that during my Skype interview for this position last winter, my truly wonderful now-boss, Wendy, told me I would never have a dull day at NCSL. When I first arrived and found myself in a maze of grey cubicles, I was more than dubious of this projection. Last summer I was across the world in Mauritius doing an archaeological dig. Here I wear pant suits. However, in less than one week, I began to discover the truth of Wendy’s prophecy. Despite my dramatic retelling, handling the voter list privacy drama has been just one of my many responsibilities this summer. My primary project actually revolves around initiatives and referendum. Born and raised on the East coast, where virtually no states employ these vestiges of direct democracy, I had no idea how important of a role ballot measures play in state politics nor how fiercely constituents and legislators feel about them (and in very different ways). I have been tasked with documenting the ins and outs of each state’s surprisingly unique processes. I comb through verbose statutes, attempt to comprehend sometimes antiquated and always wordy constitutions, and love every second of it for some inexplicable reason.

I had no idea how important of a role ballot measures play in state politics nor how fiercely constituents and legislators feel about them (and in very different ways). I have been tasked with documenting the ins and outs of each state’s surprisingly unique processes.

In and out of work, I've come to realize that people in Denver are weirdly nice. And outdoorsy. And just generally healthy. At the office, we do yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, which I’ve grown to eagerly look forward to—even if the instructor last session tried to make me do a headstand. Wendy is currently trying to convince us (the elections team) to join her at a nearby gym that sounds rather suspiciously like cross-fit, claiming that we should “embrace the Colorado lifestyle.” If you don’t hear back from me, I have probably chosen to “embrace.”

Living in Denver and working at NCSL have thus far proven to be unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before. News alerts on my phone have become personal, and I can finally touch my toes. It’s led me to seriously consider career paths I had never thought about before. I’m excited to see what more it has in store.

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