Intern Blog Post: 6 Things We Learned from the LR 335 Hearing
Fall Voting Rights interns Conner Kozisek and Sarah Wagelie have been researching Nebraska’s policies related to the 2014 Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) report outlining recommendations and best practices to improve the voting experience. Below are the lessons they learned preparing for and testifying at the LR 335 hearing.
- The PCEA report is huge (and useful).
Conner: When Bri first dropped the official report in front of me, I was terrified. With over 100 pages dedicated to election policy, I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, we quickly split up the recommendations to make it much more manageable, and I got to focus on voter registration and early voting practices. It was a great opportunity to compare Nebraska’s current policies with those of other states!
Sarah: I am so grateful that we split up the recommendations! It allowed me to go more in-depth with just a few areas of election research (military and overseas voting and post-election audits, specifically) and decreased my anxiety about being able to find all of the relevant information. I am now more thoroughly versed in post-election audit practices around the state than I ever imagined I could be! Seriously-ask me anything about post-election audits in Nebraska…
- If you ask nicely, Election Officials will help you with your research.
Sarah: I sent out an informal Election Officials survey to all 93 county clerks in Nebraska. Once the replies started rolling in, I felt a little like this gif-overwhelmed, to say the least! I wasn’t sure how I would be able to read and synthesize all of the responses by our hearing date. Manually entering their responses into an Excel spreadsheet and hand-writing 24 thank you cards to the clerks who responded required me to stay later than usual, but it was totally worth it (and not just because I was provided with lots of snacks). Their responses were incredibly helpful for everyone’s testimony; once we knew what was actually happening on the ground, versus just the Nebraska policy, we were able to provide more informed testimony. The clerks were more than generous with their time and information and this really increased the quality of our research.
- Nebraska has more statutes than you can imagine, and they’re all online!
Conner: I’ve always kept the possibility of one day doing policy research at the back of my mind, and now I have a better idea of what that might entail. Bri taught us how to look at Nebraska’s revised statutes on the Legislature webpage, and we spent almost all of our time in Chapter 32: Elections. There’s nothing quite like scrolling through pages of election law in search of a relevant statute, but this experience gave us an awesome glimpse of Nebraska law.
- Preparing to testify in front of a committee can be really stressful…
Sarah: When Bri told us that she wanted us to testify at the hearing about the recruitment of college students as poll workers, Conner and I were both pretty nervous. Having never testified at a hearing before, we weren’t sure what the rules were, how much time we would have, whether we could go up together or not, whether the senators would ask us a million questions about minute details of the research we did…we were a little stressed.
- …but it turns out that testifying is basically just a conversation!
Conner: As it turns out, testifying in front of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee was one of the most enjoyable parts of this process! Sarah and I both loved sitting in on the hearing and listening to everyone’s discussions, and when it came time for us to testify, it went much smoother than either of us had anticipated (minus saying “um” a few times and one of us nearly misspelling her name that will forever be in Legislative record ????).
- Being a Voting Rights intern with Civic Nebraska is basically amazing.
Conner: Look at these faces. You can’t fake this level of joy. That’s because we have a lot to be happy about through our internships. Working at Civic Nebraska has been an incredible opportunity to both learn from and surround myself with driven and friendly individuals who are passionate about creating a modern and robust democracy for all Nebraskans.
Sarah: I applied for this internship on a whim, not sure what I wanted to do with my senior year (or the rest of my life, to be honest). I just wanted more experience with public policy, and this internship has gone above and beyond that. Not only am I immersed in policy and the process that surrounds it, I get to come to an office where I am truly welcomed and learn from people who are so enthusiastic about voting rights and engaging members of our community in creating a democracy that works better for everyone. I am so, so, so, SO happy to have found a home at Civic Nebraska, and I am grateful for all of the opportunities that I’ve had here.
Interested in learning more about LR 335? Check out our “Studies and Publications” section on Civic Nebraska’s Non-Partisan Voting Rights webpage.