The Charger Blog

Political Science Major: ‘I’ve Definitely Grown Through the Duration of My Internship’

As an intern in the City of West Haven’s Clerk’s Office, I am helping the city process mail-in ballots for the upcoming election. I am excited to be actively involved in what promises to be an historic election.

October 14, 2020

By Nicholas Thompson ’23

Image of Thompson's desk
Nicholas Thompson’s workstation in the West Haven Clerk’s Office.

I am a political science major at the University of New Haven, and I’ve gotten a fantastic opportunity through my adviser, Dr. Chris Haynes.

Three weeks ago, I got a call while having breakfast. To my surprise, it was Dr. Haynes, and he informed me that the city of West Haven’s Clerk’s Office was in need of support. Because of the unique nature of this upcoming election, the city needs help processing and sorting mail-in ballots. As an eager political science major, I said yes without any need for further explanation. I was ecstatic that the first job of my whole life would be in the field I adore, making an impact on what will be, arguably, the most important election of our generation.

Going in, I was incredibly nervous. I’ve never worked before in an official capacity. I’ve done volunteer work with the Mayor’s Advisory Commission, but now, the stakes were on my mind. However, especially on the Sunday night before my first day, I maintained my composure and reminded myself that the experience will be well worth the effort. I couldn’t wait to jump right in and experience politics. This would not be in front of a screen in a comment thread or on YouTube, but in person with city officials.

Image of Nicholas Thompsoon '23..
Nicholas Thompson ’23 in Washington, D.C., where he hopes to continue the work he began at the University.

In essence, the job isn’t really too complex. I spend six to eight hours a week processing dozens of applications for mail-in ballots from all over West Haven’s ten electoral districts. Armed with a scanner and a label maker, I use the voter registration system to scan applications and label the envelopes that they’ll be getting their ballots in. Every application I scanned was an approval for the applicant to get their ballot in the mail.

There are challenges. I have often been interrupted by the occasional “dupe” – a duplicate application – as some people have sent in two or even three applications. Along with that, I have improved my technical skills, fixing some of the connections with the equipment in the office. I can happily say I’ve already saved an Amazon Alexa and a scan gun. After scanning, my job evolved to putting together the mail itself, completing each person’s package with instructions and a ballot.

I’ve definitely grown through the duration of my internship. I developed a good habit creating what my favorite YouTuber, Binging with Babish, calls “mise en place” – the best organizational setup for my workspace. On top of that, I’ve enhanced my attention for detail as I scanned and validated application by application.

I’ve already proven to myself, once a timid and inexperienced individual, that I can fit in whatever workplace I find myself in and exceed expectations. I look forward to working the election, and I’m even more excited for what the future holds.