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UT Student Helps Make the Vote Count

Published: October 28, 2008
With the election season in full swing, Mariah Robinson is literally on the front lines of the electoral process.

A UT junior, Robinson is an intern for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, where she works to educate voters about the registration and voting process.

In her role she assists both the office’s communications director as well as the voter education coordinator.

“Few people may realize how much planning goes into a single election,” Robinson said.

 Robinson began working at the Supervisor of Elections Office this past summer. On the job, Robinson’s duties are many and varied, but all involve communicating important election-related information to the public and educating voters about the election process.

“I love the responsibility,” Robinson said. “I get to come in every day and work on assignments that matter.”

 When elections officials statewide announced that voting this year would take place using optical scan voting machines, it was Robinson’s task to create a poster and online materials to explain how this method of voting worked.

Robinson has also been put in touch with many local elected officials. Recently she helped produce brief video messages for the office’s Web site from several local candidates. The experience, she said, gave her a glimpse at the more personal side of the candidates for sheriff, county commission and Statehouse.

She also regularly coordinates with the media, including recently for a story about a woman who visited the office in order to register to vote –for the first time – on her 80th birthday.

Having worked for class credit during the summer, Robinson was asked to stay as an intern through the end of the election season. She commutes to work daily from the UT campus to the office in Largo, all while juggling classes and on-campus responsibilities as a resident assistant and Gateways mentor.

“It creates stressful days, but it’s worth it,” she said. “My internship experience has given me a sense of direction as I now pursue a career in communication for not-for-profits.”

A psychology major, Robinson recently decided to pursue a minor in communication, due in part to her experience with the supervisor of elections. The internship has allowed her to apply many of the academic lessons of her psychology studies to a real-world setting, she said.

“I get to see how psychology can help you interact with people,” she said. “Before, psychology was just an abstract idea for me. The internship opened up how to apply it.”