Summer 2022 Projects

The Ash Center is guided by a belief that a healthy democracy is necessary to solve the most entrenched public problems, and that a healthy democracy is inclusive, fully participatory, equal, informed, responsive, and robust. Yet democratic institutions, practices and norms continue to deteriorate, as seen in widespread efforts to disenfranchise, declining confidence in political parties and political institutions, unresponsiveness of public leaders, polarization, gerrymandering, and more. The summer fellowship positions with the following organizations give Kennedy School students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience both combatting the issues that plague democracy as well as advancing innovative solutions that foster democratic governance.

Overview 

  • Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Center for Internet Security
  • City of Boston Participatory Budgeting
  • City of Cambridge Budget Office
  • Michigan Bureau of Elections
  • National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund
  • National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Native Governance Center
  • Public Citizen
  • State of Colorado Secretary of State’s Office
  • Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote

Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) is a national nonpartisan organization that works with local nonprofit partners to mobilize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in electoral and civic participation. APIAVote is currently seeking a fellow who is passionate about exploring the political arena from a non-partisan space and has a strong interest in gaining hands-on experience in grassroots community development within a national organization. Throughout their fellowship, the fellow will gain a well-rounded and hands-on experience in the various arenas that APIAVote works on alongside staff members in each department.  The fellow will work in several areas, including policy and advocacy, communications, field work, development, and assisting with the implementation of the Unite for Change and Unite for Change National Rally.

Fellowship Location: Washington, DC

Asian Americans Advancing Justice 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s (AAJC) mission is to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. The fellow will work on two projects focused on language assistance and access (with a focus on Section 203 and 208 of the Voting Rights Act, conducting analysis on the impact of 2020 Census data, new Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act determinations, and the state and local landscape for expanded or restricted language assistance on the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community. The first project focuses on creating a searchable tool that shows covered Section 203 jurisdictions and an evaluation of language assistance compliance (including but not limited to voter registration provided by government agencies, ballots, election/voting related websites, and other election materials) based on the new Section 203 determinations. The second project is conducting a landscape analysis on what state and local laws expand or undercut Section 203 and 208 of the Voting Rights Act. This information could serve as a basis for expanding the searchable tool to include state and local laws related to language assistance.

Fellowship Location: Washington, DC

Center for Internet Security

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) is a community-driven nonprofit organization working to provide best practices and tools to make the connected world a safer place. The organization is the home for the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), a community of over 3,200 dedicated election and cybersecurity professionals across the country working to ensure that voters are provided the highest standards of election security and integrity.  One of the endeavors CIS is developing are strategies by which to combat dis and misinformation and threats against election officials, and how best to support election officials across the country. CIS is exploring education programs and partnerships, networks for distribution of trusted information throughout the country, and other means to support election officials and strengthen our democracy. CIS believes these projects would be a rewarding endeavor for a graduate student to help work on, playing a role in addressing some of the most challenging issues of our time.

Fellowship Location: Remote, with some potential in-person meetings in Albany, N.Y. and/or Washington, D.C. These in-person meetings would be voluntary.

City of Boston Participatory Budgeting 

 “To further public engagement and democratic involvement in city spending, the City of Boston shall create by City ordinance an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting with an external oversight board, to create and oversee an equitable and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents by Fiscal Year 2024, consistent with G.L. c. 44, § 53.” (Mission Statement from the Boston City Council Order Approved by Mayor July 7, 2021) The City of Boston’s Office of Budget Management creates and manages the City’s $3.7 billion annual Operating Budget and $3 billion five-year Capital Plan. The City’s Budget Office will be supporting the creation of the Office of Participatory Budgeting in FY23 and seeks a fellow to assist with tasks that may include, but are not limited to: data analysis, survey creation, comparative research of similar programs, creation of public engagement processes, and drafting recommendations for a City ordinance. While the fellow will work out of OBM, they will also liaise with multiple stakeholders and should have a strong interest in the intersection of municipal function and city residents.

Fellowship Location: Boston, MA

City of Cambridge Budget Office

The City of Cambridge Budget Office seeks a fellow to craft a strategic proposal to expand the engagement and scope of the City’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) process. The focus of Cambridge’s PB process is to directly involve residents in the budgeting and city-building process, foster civic engagement and community spirit, and help ensure that the City’s capital plan reflects the priorities of Cambridge residents and stakeholders. The fellow would explore how the City could expand its outreach efforts in communities (particularly underserved communities) around Cambridge. Additionally, the fellow would conduct research on other PB processes in North America and around the world and assess how the City could modify the scope of PB.

Fellowship Location: Cambridge, MA

Michigan Bureau of Elections 

The Michigan Bureau of Elections is a division of the Michigan Department of State, assisting the Secretary of State in administration of elections. In 2022, Michigan will hold local and statewide elections under challenging conditions requiring innovative solutions: including new legislative districts drawn for the first time by an independent citizens redistricting commission; security and public health challenges; and economic and societal changes. The fellow will focus on a project in 2022 election resiliency, which will include developing and implementing solutions to allow election officials, voters, and candidates and parties navigate emerging challenges and ultimately allow for successful elections to be held. The role will include research, drafting of documents and procedures, and participation in meetings with internal and external stakeholders.

Fellowship Location: Lansing MI, with remote option

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund 

One of the core missions of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund is to ensure that naturalization is as accessible and affordable as possible to the nation’s 9 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are eligible to become U.S. citizens – about half are Latino. One of the barriers for some Latino LPRs are the tests of English proficiency and civics that most must pass before they can complete the naturalization process. For Latinos who come to the United States relatively late in life, it is particularly challenging to become fluent enough in English to pass the English-language test, and the civics test, which is administered in English as well. Our current law recognizes this by providing an exemption from the English-language exam for older LPRs who have long LPR status. This exemption is available to LPRs who are 50 years or older, and have lived as LPRs in the United States for 20 years, or are 55 years or older, and have lived in the United States for 15 years. These older LPRs must still take the civics exam, but can do so in their native language. The fellow project involves two components. The first is a literature review about English language acquisition among elderly immigrants, and compile data on adult immigrant literacy issues. The second involves interviewing naturalization service providers and adult education experts to obtain their perspectives to inform NALEO’s policy on the exemption. One possible product from this work would be legislative language for the exemption that reflected the result of the foregoing research. In addition, the Fellow may help create state-specific fact sheets with information about the impact of and need for the exemption for different states.

Fellowship Location: Remote, with some potential for in-person meetings Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles. These in-person meetings would be voluntary.

National Conference of State Legislatures 

Note: There are four opportunities with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Please indicate project preferences when applying.

Project 1: NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening (CLS) provides expertise, conducts research, writes publications and serves as consultants to legislative institutions. The Center is a leading source of information about how state legislatures are structured, how they function and operate, and who serves within them. CLS offers a unique summer fellowship opportunity to students who are interested in learning more about bipartisanship and civility and how these hallmarks of American democracy enhance and support a strong state legislative branch. This project will involve identifying key NCSL constituents from across the country and interviewing them about their experiences with civility and civil discourse. The interviews will form the basis of a story bank highlighting successes and barriers to legislative civility, which will complement new and existing NCSL resources on the topic, and which will be featured on NCSL’s website.

Project 2: NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening (CLS) provides expertise, conducts research, writes publications and serves as consultants to legislative institutions. The Center is a leading source of information about how state legislatures are structured, how they function and operate, and who serves within them. CLS offers a unique summer fellowship or internship opportunity to students who are interested in learning more about state legislative oversight and the separation of powers. During the past three decades, legislatures have enhanced their capacity to play a more active role in the policymaking process. They have asserted their independence from the governor, assumed a greater responsibility in formulating policy, and more actively oversee the operations of the executive branch. Case law and legal opinions affect this capacity. This project will require legal research and analysis - identifying new developments in case law, sourcing law review articles and gathering and summarizing reports that state legislatures have developed on the subject.

Project 3: Initiative and Referendum Processes: In 2002, NCSL produced Initiative and Referendum in the 21st Century, a report on the processes related to what’s known as “direct democracy,” where voters weigh in on policy questions through citizens initiatives. It is time to update the report and launch it anew. Much of the data on processes is already in hand; the descriptions and pros and cons of each part (for example, financial disclosure for groups supporting initiatives, the signature gathering phase, the role the legislature may play in the initiative process) need review. This project would involve gathering feedback from legislators in the 26 states that have initiatives—mostly, legislators think that initiatives are a poor substitute for the legislative process for making policy—and collaborating on the communications aspects of launching this resource.

Project 4: Voting for All Americans. In 2021, NCSL began a series of webpages, Voting for All Americans. So far, this has included webpages on voting for Native Americans, voting for people experiencing homelessness and voting for overseas citizens. Each page looks at state law as it is applied to its specific demographic group, including information about turnout, existing state laws, recent legislation, narratives to provide context and more. Still to come: webpages on new citizens, voters for whom English proficiency isn’t high, rural voters, and others. Each webpage requires connecting with representatives of the target group to understand what hurdles may exist, researching existing laws, searching for legislation related to the topic, and interviewing bill sponsors. The summer fellow will support the creation of two or three new pages, along with ancillary materials such as blogs or a magazine article.

Fellowship Location: Denver, CO

Native Governance Center

Native Governance Center (NGC) opened its doors in August 2015 in response to a need for Indigenous governance and leadership development resources identified by Tribal leaders from the 23 Native nations that share geography with Mni Sota Makoce, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Native Governance Center meets this need with programs that help to improve democratic governance institutions, increase civic engagement, and nurture Native leaders who will become the systems changemakers their communities need. The fellow will support a project as identified in NGC’s most recent strategic plan (2021), in which a key objective is to identify culturally reflective ways of measuring impact and to develop an evaluation plan that centers our values. This plan will entail a strategic and systematic approach to data collection, analysis, and presentation that will honor Indigenous traditions of evaluation while guiding NGC’s program development and assisting in communicating impact to a wide range of stakeholders.

Fellowship Location: Remote

Public Citizen

The STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012) was signed into law on April 4, 2012. The law made it clear for the first time that the laws against insider trading apply to members of Congress and congressional staff using information gleaned in their official capacities and established real-time disclosure requirements of stock trading activity by members of Congress to help monitor compliance. Research from a database of stock trading activity by members of the U.S. Senate from 2009 through 2015 – three years before and after implementation of the STOCK Act – showed that the law has had two dramatic repercussions for congressional stock trading activity. First, the STOCK Act did indeed dramatically reduce congressional stock trading activity by two-thirds. Second, the one-third of members still trading on the stock market usually bought and sold interests in businesses they directly oversaw from their committee perches. Several legislative measures are currently pending to address this issue of stock trading activity by government officials. This fellowship would entail researching: how extensive stock trading activity is within all three branches of government, not just Congress; assess the potential of abuse by government officials in using confidential material information gleaned from their government positions for insider trading; assess the potential of abuse by government officials in shaping their official actions for self-enrichment in stocks and investments; and propose appropriate remedies to these problems.

Fellowship Location: Washington, DC with a remote option

State of Colorado Secretary of State's Office 

The Colorado Secretary of State's office is dedicated to making government easy and accessible for people in order to further democracy, support economic opportunity for all Coloradans, and demonstrate a standard of integrity and excellence. Our vision is to ensure all Coloradans have a voice in our future, help Coloradans and their businesses thrive, and be the best at what we do. We believe in being accessible, empowering all people, and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard.

The fellow will conduct an analysis of the current Colorado post-canvass challenge process. The fellow would need to research the relevant constitutional and statutory requirements and outline a proposal to modernize and streamline the current process. Likely the fellow would look to processes in other states for model provisions. But the final recommendation would outline statutory or rule changes that conform to the state constitutional requirements. The fellow will work directly with the Deputy Elections Director and will have the opportunity to meet with and learn from the ballot access manager and legal manager as well as members from their teams.

Fellowship Location: Denver, CO

Southern Coalition for Social Justice 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (“SCSJ”) partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. SCSJ’s voting rights work protects the rights of communities of color by defending voting access, advocating for fair redistricting, and combatting elections administration practices that threaten democratic participation such as discriminatory photo ID requirements, restrictions on voter registration and early voting, voter registration purges, felony disenfranchisement, and spurious voter and candidate challenges. To support this work in North Carolina and across the South to ensure accessible and inclusive elections, and build public education of how election funding affects our democracy, SCSJ seeks to host a Democracy Fellow who can build upon existing relationships and create new connections with North Carolina’s county boards of elections staff and community organizers in low-income and rural counties. This role would not only develop stronger understanding of the relationship between elections appropriations and voter participation in North Carolina, but help to build a model of research, education, and engagement that could be applied across the region. As part of this role, the Fellow would: Review and analyze past county boards of elections funding requests and determine what was ultimately allocated by the county commissioners; Conduct interviews with county boards of elections staff about their county’s specific problems and priorities when facing underfunding, with a focus on what initiatives were cut or limited as a result of budget constraints, and what administrators would have accomplished with adequate funding; Conduct interviews with voters of color and community advocates supporting these and other underrepresented constituencies about their election experiences and connect those voter experiences to local election budgets; Synthesize research and recommend policy initiatives and best practices for budget advocacy and administration supporting county boards of elections, in order to achieve accessible and inclusive elections. Assist SCSJ staff to liaise with county officials and voting rights advocates in order to assess and elevate immediate funding needs and concerns.

Fellowship Location: Durham, NC