Out West student blog

Data and Democracy: A Foundational Intersection

Claudia at the Saganashkee Slough. (Credit: Monika Kania)

By Claudia Kania '22
Hometown: Burbank, IL
Major: Political Science
Elections Policy Intern, The National Conference of State Legislatures

“The currency of leadership is transparency,” is both a seminal quote by Howard Schultz and a state of mind that has driven my work in the past few weeks. I have gained an indispensable amount of knowledge and competence working for a nonpartisan organization aiming to solidify the foundations for legislative integrity and cooperation with the federal government. 

The backbone of my work at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is driven by this idea, as well as the hope that our collective collaboration will raise the standards of transparency in state governments. For example, I have worked on various data-oriented projects regarding the demographics within our current national legislature, working with categories such as age, political affiliation, and race. My personal goal for the project was to paint a more vivid and lucid image of our current political landscape, as well as aid scholars and researchers in utilizing the data for academic publications or other endeavors. 

Throughout my work at the NCSL, I have faced both challenges and setbacks, but these were also accompanied by wise words and helpful solutions from my mentor. Together, our team has grappled with handling several questions and challenges that brought us closer together as both an organization, and a team. One such question was raised from the “practicality” of working for a nonaffiliated organization, while still holding political affiliations. For members who wished to act on issues regarding social justice and other heavily political topics, this challenge was especially difficult. I was more than welcome to share my personal views regarding political activism within a nonpartisan organization, and I happily presented a related data-driven project I had previously completed at Stanford to put this challenging question into perspective. Furthermore, although a minor task in regards to my other duties for the NCSL, I had the pleasure of interacting with voter requests from all over the country which were sent to our mailbox. From felon voting rights, to absentee ballots, I was able to make tangible the definition of democracy by helping make it accessible to constituents nationwide. It is with great pleasure and pride that I am working for such a reputable, yet transparent, organization that prioritizes governmental efficacy and integrity.

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