INTERNING AT THE ELECTIONS OFFICE

Election years are exciting for a lot of people around the country, but especially for students studying political science.

Two UNI students, Trevor Hanson and Jason Aarhus, had the opportunity to intern at the Black Hawk County Elections Office this fall. A significant portion of their internships, especially in the last six weeks, has been devoted to helping with the election process including assisting with absentee voting, checking the pre-printed ballots for errors, updating the voter file for the county, and administering pre-voting checks on the electronic voting machines.

Their schedules have been especially hectic as Election Day approaches, but both students are working hard to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. These students are also getting and in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at how elections happen at a local level, including understanding the safeguards in place to ensure that elections are conducted fairly.

The internship program is designed to provide opportunities for students to gain experience as well as practical knowledge about politics and public administration.

Two UNI students, Trevor Hanson and Jason Aarhus, had the opportunity to intern at the Black Hawk County Elections Office this fall.

"There are many opportunities for our students to engage in internships in Iowa, especially given the electorally competitive nature of the state and the many campaigns and interest groups that are active at local, state and federal levels" said Donna Hoffman, head of the political science department. "Students don't have to be engaged in campaign related internships, however, and there are many opportunities for working in local, state and even federal offices. On-the-job experience enables the student to discover perspectives that can seldom be effectively conveyed in academic courses."

Jason Aarhus found that the internship opened his eyes to the amount of detailed work going on behind-the-scenes at polling locations and the elections office.

"There are dedicated employees putting far more hard work and organization into the process than many would realize," said Jason. This work includes ensuring that polling machines are functioning correctly, setting up satellite voting locations, processing thousands of registration forms, making sure that polling locations are compliant with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and quickly counting the ballots after the polls close, all while following numerous rules and regulations to properly conduct an election.

The most surprising part of his work with the elections office was early voting. "I love working at the counter and assisting people with early voting," said Jason. "There are people in other countries dying for the right to vote. And not too long ago, people in this country died for that right as well. I never lose sight of that fact."

"Beyond realizing the vast amount of work that goes into the process," said Jason, "it was nice to confirm just how non-partisan the process is from the perspective of the elections office. Nobody in the world wants a clean election more than the people working in that office."