I was on the Global UGRAD Program during one of the best periods in modern history – the 58th Quadrennial U.S. Presidential Election which saw the most spectacular power transition in the White House – where I learned and grew tremendously. From interning at the Hennepin County Government in Minneapolis as an absentee ballot counting agent for the UOCAVA, to marching in Washington, DC to absorb the surreal atmosphere of first-world democracy in action, I returned to Malaysia with a renewed interest in my country’s sociopolitical development.
Back home, I earned the honor of shadowing one of the most contentious opposition leaders as an intern with INVOKE Malaysia, a political think tank established for the purpose of redefining political campaigns and strategies in the country, using big data analytics and aggressive grassroots canvassing to encourage wider participation and outreach.
At INVOKE, I was trained to understand the workings behind the most basic aspects of political campaigns. I was assigned to call up registered and unregistered voters in various constituencies to survey their opinions on the campaign promises, as well as to influence their political proclivity come the general election this year. I was also involved in the training of polling and counting agents, which is instrumental in ensuring the integrity of the check and balance mechanism to protect the electoral process. Perhaps the most memorable experience was the opportunity to work with Andrew Claster, the Deputy Chief of Analytics for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 re-election campaigns, who personally taught me the techniques of effective canvassing in especially hostile constituencies.
This experience has definitely changed my perception of the opposition coalition in Malaysia, as well as my attitude towards politics in general. I thank Global UGRAD for the life-changing experience I had in the U.S.
Written by Moris Deri (Malaysia), 2016-2017 Global UGRAD at University of Minnesota Twin Cities.