By Sydney Runkle
The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in 2003 allowing students to work at the polls on Election Day. This law resulted in the creation of the student election assistant position, giving students the opportunity to support election officials in facilitating efficient, fair and organized Election Days.
To be eligible for this opportunity, students must meet a few requirements. A student must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the county in which he/she is working. Applicants must be enrolled in a public or private high school or home school. In addition, applicants are required to be at least 17 years old by Election Day. Students must also be in good academic standing, which is validated through a principal’s signature.
Finally, every applicant will be considered under the precondition that he/she has parental permission to work on Election Day. Parental approval is mandatory because applicants will need to be excused from a day of school for this event.
Student election assistants have varying responsibilities, including controlling lines of voters, checking in voters via an electronic computer system, handing out ballots and assisting voters who may need guidance. Student election assistants’ responsibilities closely resemble those of adult election officials.
Compensation is provided for student election assistants. Students will participate in a two-hour training class, for which they will be paid $30. Subsequent to the training, students will work during the entirety of Election Day (about 13.5 hours) for $200.
The Election Day is notably long, so applicants are recommended to wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers. No smoking is permitted at the polling stations. Election assistants should plan to provide their own food for the day, keeping in mind length of the day. Assistants should be aware that the discussion of politics at a polling station and the wearing of campaign buttons, clothing, or accessories is prohibited.
This job opportunity presents an excellent way for teens to get involved with their government, promote responsible voting practices and attain practical work experience. Though students have to miss a day of school for the Election Day event, they will gain first-hand experience regarding voting procedures.
If a student is interested in pursuing a career in the political sphere or in the governmental realm, becoming an election assistant is a superb way to demonstrate engagement in such a field. Even if a student is interested in pursuing an alternative field, this opportunity is still an excellent way to foster community connections.
There are generally only two election assistants per precinct, so interested candidates should apply soon. The application for this opportunity can be found at http://www.orangecountync.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2205/Application-for-Student-Assistant.PDF.
Once complete, the one-page application can be mailed to your local Board of Elections office for processing. To learn more about this opportunity, contact your local Board of Elections. A list of offices may be found at www.NCSBE.gov.
Sydney Runkle is a rising senior at Chapel Hill High School.