Externship with OneVirginia2021

williamsby Benjamin Williams, Class of 2018

My name is Ben Williams and I am a rising 3L from Hurricane, West Virginia. I attended Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana where I double-majored in International Relations and History with a minor in Latin American Studies. During the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years I worked as an intern in the United States Senate and House in Washington, D.C.  The following summer, I ran the summer internship program for Senator Jay Rockefeller. At William & Mary Law School, I am a Notes Editor on the Bill of Rights Journal, an executive board member of the Public Service Fund, and am a Co-Director of Constitutional Conversations, a public lecture series where law students affiliated with William & Mary’s Institute for Bill of Rights Law lead a discussion on a different topic in constitutional law. Outside of law school, I enjoy skiing, hiking, and traveling.

One of the great things about William & Mary is its proximity to both the Richmond and Hampton Roads metropolitan areas and their abundant externship opportunities. Taking advantage of this, I had an externship with OneVirginia2021 for the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters. OneVirginia2021 is a nonprofit organization which advocates for redistricting reform in Virginia. While I didn’t know much about Election Law prior to coming to William & Mary, I quickly found that the field lies at the intersection of two of my favorite things: law and politics.

onevirginiaOneVirginia2021 was founded in 2014 by a group of motivated citizens who were tired of the impacts of gerrymandering on the political process. Unlike most other organizations, OneVirginia2021 is transpartisan and maintains many supporters in both major parties, at the grassroots level and in the General Assembly in Richmond. They pursue three primary methods of advocacy: direct lobbying of the legislature through their 501(c)(4), legal advocacy through their legal team, and public education and awareness building through their 501(c)(3).

My externship was with OneVirginia2021’s 501(c)(3) and the legal team. During the fall, my work primarily focused on developing tools for the organization’s poll volunteers, who initiated conversations with voters on Election Day to raise awareness of the impact gerrymandering has on electoral competitiveness. I also helped to edit the organization’s amicus brief filed on behalf of petitioners in the Bethune-Hill racial gerrymandering case. During the spring, I helped with OneVirginia’s anti-gerrymandering lawsuit against Senate Democrats and House Republicans. I also helped draft summaries of individual legislators’ positions on gerrymandering, for distribution in their districts so voters will be better-informed when they go to the polls this November. My work helped to solidify my desire to work in Election Law post-graduation, and helped me make valuable connections that have already helped me begin down that path.