Q&A with Heather Heyer
September 8, 2016—Master of Public Policy, 2017
Certificate in Election Administration, 2017
Summer Internship: Denver Elections Division. Mid-May through mid-August. My internship was set up through my Humphrey School mentor, Amber McReynolds, who is the director of elections in Denver.
Tell us about your internship. My primary tasks were to conduct research and communications tasks for the Elections Division, which oversees voting in the city and county of Denver.
I did historical research in election law in relation to some pending court cases in Denver. Colorado’s primary election was on June 28, so I coordinated several media interviews ahead of time, to help increase voter turnout. Colorado recently went to an all-mail ballot model, and the November election is the first presidential election using this new voting method. So I worked on a marketing campaign about the mail-in ballots, to encourage voters to return them early.
What in particular made the internship rewarding? The hands-on experience I received. I got to see the entire election process up close—from the printing of the ballots to the machines that process them. So I really got to get my hands dirty. Also, the people I worked with were very welcoming.
How will this internship shape your completion of studies at the Humphrey School? My internship helped me make invaluable contacts with people in the industry. I attended the Colorado County Clerks Association conference and met many people there. I’ve also made contacts at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. These kinds of connections will help me the most.
How do you see this experience impacting your plan to advance the common good after graduation? Participation in elections is a very important aspect of democracy. It’s something we need to improve, especially among millennials who have low voter participation rates. We need to get them involved and make them understand how important it is for them to vote. Millennials don’t trust the system, so we need to make the process as transparent as possible to show them the system is not rigged.
My goal is to work in elections administration. I was an election judge in Hennepin County from 2010–2014, and I’ve also worked in the world of operations. I’m also really interested in increasing voter participation and engagement in a nonpartisan way. Election administration is a career that checks all those boxes for me.