canada africa partner reservation High school poll workers are learning firsthand how elections work – even before they can vote

High school poll workers are learning firsthand how elections work – even before they can vote

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Before local election organizers panicked over a lack of poll workers for the primaries, 46 children not old enough to vote stepped forward to fill the gap.

A program from the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office called Hoosier Hall Pass allows 16- and 17-year-olds to work at a polling place all day on Election Day. They follow the same training as adult employees and are paid the same. They show up at 5 a.m. and leave after the polls close at 6 p.m., a 13-hour workday.

Matty Dressman checks in to vote on Bloomington High School South on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.  Student survey staff can be seen in the background.Matty Dressman checks in to vote on Bloomington High School South on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.  Student survey staff can be seen in the background.

Matty Dressman checks in to vote on Bloomington High School South on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Student survey staff can be seen in the background.

“They get an understanding of what voting is, the political differences,” said Kylie Moreland, Monroe County elections supervisor. “And they see what Election Day actually looks like.”

Moreland said she was confused and somewhat intimidated when she voted for the first time, and was unsure of the process. She said everyone working the polls was an older adult.

Student poll workers will not experience that inconvenience when they cast their first vote. “They know what the voting process is, what a vote looks like and can see the election happening firsthand,” Moreland said.

On May 7, students were assigned to 17 of the 29 polling stations in the province. Those who worked as poll clerks were paid $150 plus $30 for attending training. Students in the role of election sheriffs earned $200 plus the training salary. That’s an hourly rate of $13.85 and $17.69. All poll workers also received a $25 meal allowance for the day.

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With a total of 346 people working at the polls, students under the age of 18 made up 13% of local election staff. The Indiana Secretary of State’s office estimated that in 2020, 4% of the state’s poll workers were made up of Hoosier Hall Pass participants under the age of 18.

Moreland said the Hoosier Hall Pass program, which has been in place since 2020, had only been used once before in Monroe County, during last year’s fall elections, when two worked the polls.

When Moreland took on the position of election supervisor this year and heard about the program, she made involving 16- and 17-year-olds in the election a priority. It was especially helpful because the students, who have never voted before, have no political affiliation and can run in either Republican or Democratic positions at the polls.

Students can work in a variety of roles in jobs that require verifying voter information and assisting people at polling booths. They do not supervise the counting of votes or manage voting activities.

Della Cusack checks a voter in at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church to vote on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.Della Cusack checks a voter in at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church to vote on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Della Cusack checks a voter in at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church to vote on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

“Most of our inspectors came in and told us they were so happy with the student surveys that brought in a younger presence and were able to help with things that older employees sometimes struggle with, like setting out the signs and moving chairs and tables on their place.”

The Grandview Elementary School superintendent was nervous about the student workers until she saw them in action.

“They really went above and beyond and helped her and allowed her to step back and breathe when she saw how well they were working,” Moreland said. “They helped people who were struggling with the technology part and the polling places and made the process smoother and faster for people.”

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Republican pollster Curt Durnil said students at Bloomington High School North, Edgewood High School, Lighthouse Christian Academy, Seven Oaks as well as home-schooled students signed up this year to get an up-close look at the U.S. election process. He and Democratic pollster Orion Saft visited the high school to spread the word about the Hall Pass program.

A brochure from the State Secretary’s office entices students with a few questions: “Do you want to ensure that your voice is heard? Interested in politics, government or current affairs? Do you want to miss a day of school and get paid for it?”

Some students, like those from Edgewood, did get the day off from school. But others, including North students, already had the day off since MCCSC schools closed for Election Day.

The program is designed to give students an inside look at the importance of elections and overseeing the process. They help ensure citizens’ right to vote and provide a taste of the democratic process. The program “provides students with the opportunity to learn about democracy, actively participate in their community and work to support free and fair elections in Indiana,” according to the program’s website.

Students who wish to work at a polling place on Election Day must:

∎ Be 16 or 17 years old

∎ Have written approval from their school principal or approval from the person responsible for their education if they are homeschooled

∎ Have permission from a parent or guardian

∎ Be a citizen of the United States and a resident of the county where they will be working on Election Day

∎ Complete training required by the county board of elections

Contact HT reporter Laura Lane at [email protected] or 812-318-5967.

This article originally appeared in The Herald-Times: Monroe County high school students can’t vote, but 46 worked on Election Day