Researching Candidates During an Election Year: My Intern Experience

Working at Vote Smart: Just the Facts

Katherine Kjos ’22

Hi! My name is Katherine and I am double majoring in International Relations and European History here at Wheaton College. This past summer, I interned at a non-partisan organization called Vote Smart where I conducted research on 2020-2021 political candidates in the United States. Vote Smart is an organization that collects non-partisan information on candidates ranging from the local to the national level so voters can make informed voting decisions. As a part-time intern, I went state by state and researched state legislative candidates by looking at their candidate websites, social media, and other secondary sources that have information about them and their careers. The first state I researched was California and then over the months, I researched Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii. 

Introducing a Wider Perspective

One of the more interesting parts of my internship was how I got to learn so much about local politics in other states. Growing up on the east coast in New England, my scope of the rest of the country was pretty narrow until I began this internship. Through my research, I learned about the problems that may be occurring in other states and what people value in their candidates across the country. The range of ages of the people who ran for these positions varied greatly; there were some people running for state legislature that was fresh out of graduate school and then there were some who were retired for a couple of years before they decided to run. I met other interns from a variety of different states as well and overall, my knowledge of the people and policies around the country has widened greatly. 

What I’ve Learned

This internship was a great experience for me and I highly recommend students in college to intern at least once at their time at Wheaton to get an idea of what they want to do once they graduate. Coming away from this experience, I learned how to work independently as well as in a team. As a remote intern with the rest of the team being a time zone away, I had to become comfortable working on my own and asking for help when needed. This experience boosted my confidence in my work which is evident in my assignments now. My research skills have skyrocketed exponentially and I’ve also learned how to navigate databases. I enjoyed working at a place that had similar values to myself and shared my passion for voter education. For me, knowing that my work has contributed to something greater than myself is extremely rewarding and I would do it again in a heartbeat.