SWCS students work the polls

 Messenger photo by  Dedra Cordle
 Westland High School seniors Ashley Lunsford and Nikki Griffith look on while Jackie Kreterfield demonstrates how to operate the touch screen voting machines. All three are volunteers with the kids voting program, Youth at the Booth.

South-Western City School students in the Youth at the Booth program will make their presence felt at the polls for the general election on Nov. 6.

"Youth at the Booth, a program of Kids Voting," gives high school students a hands on approach in seeing how the election process works by serving as precinct officials.

However, before they can become efficient precinct election officials, they have to go through training to learn their way around the electronic ballot machine.

"Kids are great at machines," Deborah Koch, program coordinator for Kids Voting Central Ohio said. "They are used to the technology and pick it up easily."

For two and half hours on Sept. 24, Koch, and several kids voting machine trainers educated 30 seniors at Westland High School on how to act during the election day, what to wear, and how to instruct voters on what can be a very stressful process. There were also a few groans heard when it was announced they would have to start the day at 5:30 a.m.

"It will be a very long day," said Jane McMeekin, education director of Kids Voting said. "But I can’t emphasize how important this (being a part of the democratic process) is."

After the presentation that discussed poll conduct, and the voting process, the students then went to get their hands on experience by learning their way through the touch screen voting machines.

"I enjoy teaching them because they are like sponges," said Andre Godin, a Kids Voting Machine Trainer. "They just soak everything up."

Not just any student can be in the Youth at the Booth program. They are required to be at least 17-years-old, a high school senior, have permission from the school to volunteer and be in good academic standing.  

"Only the best and brightest students get to do this," Machine Trainer Diane Hendrickson said.

Aside from working the machines and becoming registered voters, the Youth at the Booth students also receive $110 for their training.

"I like to think they go into this because they have an interest in democracy, but I understand the money plays a factor in it," said Koch. "But I find that they develop a greater understanding of the election process and tend to vote because of it. Then they can encourage others to vote also."

The Franklin County Board of Elections can always use volunteers for Election Day.

They hire approximately 5,500 individuals to be precinct election officials. Last year, nearly 1,500 of those poll workers were high school seniors in Franklin County. If you wish to sign-up for the general election on Nov. 6, go to Web site www.franklincountyohio.gov/boe.

If you just want to get out and vote for the Mayor of Columbus, city officials and school board members, you have to be registered by Oct. 9 to participate in the upcoming Election Day. Information can be found at the web link listed above.

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