After just finishing my first week interning in a Clerk’s Office, I have already learned an incredible amount about local governments, the election process, and the endless amount of work that goes into these events to make sure everything runs smoothly. Back in May, having just finished my first year of college, I was in desperate need of money. So, the job search began. I used the Handshake account from the university as well as an Indeed account to search for local jobs around me. I wasn’t specifically looking for an internship, just a job that was close to where I lived and paid well. I was looking into waitressing and being a receptionist at first, but then I came across a hiring profile for my local township at the Clerk’s Office.
I started researching what the Clerk's Office was in charge of and what they handled on a dailybasis. It was extensive.
I wasn’t exactly sure what working in a Clerk’s Office would entail, but I met the requirements for the internship and decided to apply. I sent in my resume and my cover letter (that the Career Center help me put together) and waited for a callback. Eventually, I started researching what the Clerk’s Office was in charge of and what they handled on a daily basis. It was extensive. The Clerk in Van Buren Township was responsible for the cemetery, FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, and most importantly, elections and voter registrations. This August and November held upcoming primaries for the state of Michigan, and my town’s local government was hiring interns to help handle the extensive responsibilities that came with elections.
"Most people have trouble handling the stress that elections can bring."
Before I could start the internship, I had an interview with the head of HR Management, the Deputy Clerk, and the Clerk. It was a very extensive interview, and we mostly talked about my past working experience as well as certain projects I was apart of. They asked me about school projects I had trouble on and how I handled it. We discussed my abilities to work well with others and how I would handle certain things going wrong or anger voters. The Deputy Clerk made sure to point out that the internship was not a simple summer job; there were responsibilities I was going to be given that had to be done correctly or the elections could be compromised. She insisted that I knew what I was getting myself into because most people have trouble handling the stress that elections can bring.
I was eager to get some firsthand experience of local government.
Although my knowledge of elections and the Clerk’s responsibilities were chalked up to a few minutes on internet searching, I wasn’t scared of the responsibility; I was excited by the opportunity. There were not many freshmen students I knew that had the chance to be an intern, and I was eager to get some firsthand experience of local government because I want to go to law school. I accepted the position and impatiently awaited my start date in June.
I was very nervous about my first day. I didn’t really know what to expect because this was so unlike any job I’ve had before. I wanted to make sure that I would be able to handle all of the things that were expected of me, and I wanted to bring new ideas to the office. One of my most important goals when joining a new job is that I can contribute in an enlivening way that makes other peoples’ lives and jobs easier. I was excited to meet my coworkers and see what I would be spending my summer doing.
There had been a completely new system put in place that year, and no one had used it in an election yet.
On my first day, I was immediately put in charge of creating a manual for the Electronic Poll Book, which is the system used on election day that keeps track of the ballots and the voters. It was a lot to handle because there had been a completely new system put in place that year, and no one had used it in an election yet. The Election’s Clerk was an enormous help because she had already started a manual that I could go off of, however, there was still a lot that needed to be covered.
It amazed me on how many things that went into keeping our township running smoothly.
I spent my first few days wrestling with the program and figuring out how to slowly trudge my way through the database of voters that live in our jurisdiction. I picked up a lot of government slang and the all different responsibilities that our municipality was in charge of. It amazed me on how many things that went into keeping our township running smoothly, from dealing with citizens who called about the trees blocking their sidewalk to worrying about voter fraud. There were FOIA requests that had to be sent out, absentee ballots that had to be filed and mailed, and I had to learn the EPB well enough to teach two dozen people how to use it for election day.
I wouldn't receive a bad grade if I did poorly on the assignments I was given, it would be detrimental for the upcoming elections.
My first week went by very fast. By the end, I was exhausted from working five days a week, excited about all of the new things I was learning, and very nervous about the very real responsibilities I was given. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t receive a bad grade if I did poorly on the assignments I was given, it would be detrimental for the upcoming elections. We could lose ballots, or the ballots could be miscounted or lost, and that could result in a huge problem for the township. However, I left that week with a sense of pride that I was doing well in my position, and I would continue to learn and gain experience no matter what went wrong.