Advocating for the Voting Rights of Americans Living and Working Abroad
In 2009, Stacey Van Zuiden, LW’12, left a career in Nebraska politics to go to law school with the hope of specializing in election law. She chose Drake Law School because of Iowa’s unique electoral climate.
After Van Zuiden’s first year of law school, she participated in a summer internship with the Colorado Elections Division. While working for the Colorado Elections Division, the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Federal Voting Assistance Program
(FVAP), filed a federal complaint against Colorado for violating provisions of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. This was Van Zuiden’s first encounter with FVAP, a Department of Defense sub-agency that protects the voting rights of Americans that are living and working abroad.
“Having been a military dependent whose family was stationed overseas for several years, I was intrigued by FVAP’s mission and I made it a personal goal to work for them some day," Van Zuiden said. "At the time, I had no idea that I would realize that goal within three months of graduation.”
Van Zuiden is currently the midwest analyst for FVAP, making her responsible for the oversight of 13 states in the Midwest region. Her duties include acting as a liaison between the Department of Defense, voters, and state and local election officials; researching and interpreting current state laws and administrative rules; and advocating for change when needed. In addition, she works with the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Section when states or local election officials run afoul of federal law or when states seek clarification on an issue.
When asked about how Drake Law School helped her obtain her current position, Van Zuiden responded by saying, “The Career Development Office was exceptionally supportive when it came to thinking outside of the traditional legal track. They were a great sounding board while I was going through the federal application and interview process. I am so grateful for the amount of support I had from the Career Development Office as well as professors who reassured and encouraged me to pursue my goals.”
Of her experience with the Federal Voting Assistance Program, Van Zuiden said, “Every day I go into my office I cannot help but feel thankful for this opportunity. I advocate for the rights of my fellow Americans, many of whom are putting their lives in harm’s way. I am in awe that I am doing exactly what I set out to do with my legal education, and Drake Law was a supportive ally each step of the way.”