During the month of May, I had the privilege of interning in Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy’s office. In the spirit of Wake the Vote, I had hoped to do campaign work, though Congressman Kennedy was running unopposed (though a Republican challenger did announce his candidacy by the end of the month). Being a Democrat from a highly Democratic area, and working hard as a dedicated representative, it is no surprise that Kennedy holds a secure seat in Congress.
Though Kennedy was not running a campaign, there was still plenty of work to do regarding voter turnout and public appeal, like organizing marchers to join the congressman in the Boston Pride Parade. I was assigned to print and deliver letters and voter registration forms to every student graduating from a high school within the district. There were thousands of students, thousands of letters, and thousands of voter registration forms. Each student received a letter congratulating him or her on graduating, urging him or her to continue his or her education and to participate in the democratic process by registering to vote.
Initially this task seemed to like a clever strategy. If a student receives a letter from the congressman, then that student is likely to vote for the congressman who wrote to him or her. Though as I thought about the project more, I realized it was much more than just a strategic ploy. Coming home to Massachusetts from a year of college and politics in North Carolina, I saw a bold difference in political attitudes. While North Carolina politicians implemented one of the most restricting voter ID laws in history, which limited the right to vote for countless North Carolinians, my congressman was doing just the opposite. Rather, Congressman Kennedy decided to allocate so much time and so many resources towards getting young citizens involved in democracy and voting. What felt like tedious work at the time later felt like a real and substantial effort towards empowering other Americans. I realized how influential politicians can be in getting out the vote, if they choose to do so.