High school, college students to man the polls on Election Day
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 5:50PM
Shepard students vote in a mock election. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:20AM
As voters head to the polls Tuesday, there’s a good chance they will be greeted by the fresh young faces of precinct workers who are barely of voting age.
High school and college student poll workers are a “vital cog in the Election Day wheel,” Cook County Clerk David Orr said. He introduced the election judge program to high school seniors in 1999, extended it to juniors in 2007, and began an equipment manager program for college students in 2008.
In Blue Island, Eisenhower High School government teacher John Wydra said more than 40 students eagerly applied to work as election judges, and 75 percent were accepted. Students had to be juniors or seniors, have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better, and attend a training session, he said.
“They were really excited about it,” he said. This type of experience “is definitely a good thing” to put on a job or college application and the pay is decent — $170 for the day — same as all election judges.
“They get to see how Election Day works behind the scenes. They become knowledgeable about the process, and hopefully this will inspire them as future voters,” Wydra said.
Although he covers the election process in class, “hands-on experience is priceless,” he said.
To further spark student interest in the electoral process, Wydra said mock elections were held in all three of Community High School District 218’s schools — Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard. Students served as registrars and election judges, and equipment was brought in from the county clerk’s office to make the experience as realistic as possible.
President Barack Obama was easily re-elected with 76 percent of the vote; Mitt Romney received 20 percent, and the Libertarian and Green Party candidates split the remainder, he said.
According to Orr, 1,350 high school students from 71 schools and 1,300 college students from 45 colleges applied this year to work on Election Day.
“Getting young people involved early helps to solidify voting as an integral part of their lives,” Orr said.
Among the participating high schools, New Trier will have the most — more than 100 — students in precincts. Hillcrest High School will have 80 election judges. Nearly 300 from Moraine Valley Community College applied for the jobs, Orr said.
Other participating Southland schools are Andrew, Bremen, Brother Rice, Evergreen Park, Homewood-Flossmoor, Lemont, Marist, Rich East, Richards, Sandburg, Seton Academy, Thornridge, Thornwood, T.F. North, T.F. South and Tinley Park. Participating colleges are DeVry, Governors State University, Joliet Junior College, Lewis University, South Suburban College and St. Xavier University.
Teachers and students who are interested in the student program should visit www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/studentinvolvement. It is too late for this election, but students are needed for the April 9 election.