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Students Work the Polls on Election Day

By Jon Hussey

More than 150 American University and other area university students, recruited by AU’s Center for Democracy and Election Management (CDEM), will serve as poll workers throughout the District on Election Day. They are part of a nationwide push to increase participation among young Americans, addressing nation’s critical shortfall of election help.

CDEM recruited the students with funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and provided them training in partnership with the Pollworker Institute and the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

All of the students will serve as poll technicians in District of Columbia polling places on Election Day Nov. 4, and every polling place will have at least one student helping out.  Election experts from AU will also help students understand their efforts in the wider context of American election management.

Students were recruited through volunteer fairs and campus communications and participated in on-campus training sessions or training at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.  During training, students were taught how to run the District’s voting machines and other election technology, and instructed on rules and procedures used during the election. 

College-age poll workers are sought after in part because they may be more comfortable with electronic voting machines.  Many American poll workers are retirees who may find the machines intimidating.  Controversy over electronic voting is one of the major election administration issues in the United States.

The EAC has provided $750,000 to 27 colleges and nonprofit organizations from 18 states to recruit students to serve as poll workers during the November presidential election, with money from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).  HAVA, passed by Congress in 2002, established the Help America Vote College Program.

The program is also aimed at boosting the country’s chronically low rate of participation among eligible voters aged 18 to 24.  By engaging students in election administration, Congress hoped to spur greater civic engagement among young people.