Local NYC Council Primary Campaign

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Maximillian Hall, COL ’24

This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern for Debra Markell for New York City Council, a local campaign servicing NYC’s District 23.

I have a passion for the political process, and through my work with Debra Markell’s campaign, I was able to gain first-hand experience with political canvassing and campaign management at a local level. As an intern for the campaign, I was primarily responsible for voter outreach, event promotion, and data collection to create a clearer picture of how New York’s District 23 would be voting in the Democratic primary this past June. The pandemic’s grip on New York shifted all of these efforts virtual, which created some unexpected challenges.

Close to all voter outreach was done over the phone, which encouraged me to sharpen my interpersonal skills, ask questions whenever I could, and learn to find answers for people that might not be immediately obvious. I spoke with thousands of Eastern Queens residents and found that people’s priorities usually lie with what’s immediately relevant to them – go figure. At Debbie’s virtual town halls, I learned how a campaign is tailored to fit the needs of a politician’s constituency, and how to answer questions accordingly. In Debbie’s case, that meant improving transportation, bolstering education and senior services, and promoting condo owners’ rights in Eastern Queens.

This past June’s primary was one of the first to use New York City’s recently-passed ranked-choice voting system, by which voters ranked candidates by order of preference on their ballots from 1 to 5. It was fascinating to see how the new system affected results, and I’m excited to see how ranked-choice voting will affect other elections in the future.

Unfortunately, one of my most important realizations through interning with Debra Markell was that most people don’t vote. A shockingly small percentage of CD 23’s constituents turned out to cast a ballot, making the small margins for winning all the more important to local candidates. I can’t stress it enough: get out and vote, no matter your politics!

I was overjoyed to be able to work for a campaign that promoted issues that I care about, particularly supporting public education and preserving green space in urban areas. I learned a lot about local politics, and I’m excited to carry what I’ve learned into wherever my career takes me!

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