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Why Are There Students Working The Polls?


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A poll worker, also known as an election worker, plays a crucial role in the democratic process by assisting in the smooth operation of polling stations during elections. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that the voting process is conducted fairly, efficiently, and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Some of their other duties include setting up voting equipment, assisting voters with the check-in process, distributing ballots to voters, and maintaining records and documentation throughout the day.

Poll working has long been a job carried out by adults and senior citizens, but if you went to vote in the May 9 Town Council election, you might have been assisted by a student from Verona High School. Jennifer Kiernan, the municipal clerk, helped pave the way for a new program where students, ages 16 and up, get paid to work the polls.

Kiernan says, “Early in the fall of 2022 the Board of Elections informed the municipal clerks that the County was in need of poll workers.” Not only this, but all poll workers needed to be retrained because of the new voting technology. As a result, Kiernan says she “seized the opportunity to recruit VHS students to be trained and work as poll workers in the November 2022 general election.” The program started with only seven students who were taking AP United States Government and Politics. The overwhelming positive feedback led to Kiernan being asked by the Board of Elections to assist them in coordinating a pilot program recruiting high school juniors to apply to work the polls in the May election. With the help of many VHS teachers and staff, 28 students were recruited and placed at a polling location. Every student who worked the election got paid $300 for they day, the same as other poll workers.

This initiative has been successful in getting teenagers involved in local politics. Voter turnout has been extremely low in past elections and getting the next generation invested at a young age could be a great way to get people to vote. By involving students, it offers a unique opportunity to actively participate in the democratic process and gain a firsthand understanding of how elections are conducted.

After the May 9 municipal election, students filled out a survey asking questions about their experience and why working the election was important to them. One student said, “It was important for me because I will be able to vote next year, and because I was a part of this process, I got a more in-depth perspective as to how you are supposed to vote, districts, etc. ” Another student said, “Working the election was so important to me because it gave me a chance to be a part of the voting process, something that I wasn’t very familiar with. It taught me a lot about how elections [are] actually run and made me more confident as a future voter.” By engaging in poll work, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of civic engagement and the value of their vote.

This is not the only aspect in which student poll workers are making a difference though. Their proficiency and familiarity with technology can be used to help bridge the generational gap by assisting older voters and poll workers with the technological aspects of the election. As a result, this creates a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at the polling stations by offering fresh perspectives and high energy.

The students also enjoyed working with seasoned poll workers. “[W]orking alongside well-experienced poll workers that knew how everything worked,” said one student. “It made me very comfortable since I knew that if I did not know something or was confused at any point, I could ask about it.”

Many of the student poll workers have agreed to work in future elections. One student said, “I was surprised how easy it was to work the poll pads and poll machine. Although it was a long 14-hour day, I would 100% do it again and recommend others to get involved. It’s an easy way to learn more about your local elections”

Kiernan believes that the student poll workers initiative will carry state-wide. She says “I have nothing but the utmost respect for these students. They set a standard by which all future poll workers – students and adults alike, will be expected to perform at. I am grateful to be a part of this initiative and look forward to carrying on this new tradition and getting young adults involved in the democratic process.”

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