Program set to train student poll workers

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September 7, 2010

12:24 AM

Two organizations at the College of William and Mary are combining their efforts in order to increase political participation among undergraduate students.

The Election Law Society and the Election Law Program are working together, in preparation for the November elections, to encourage young people to volunteer as poll workers. With the help of funding through a Help America Vote College Program grant administered by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the joint project, called the Tidewater Roots Poll Project, aims to train student volunteers to work for the upcoming elections.

“This is a great opportunity, [because] becoming signed up and trained as a poll worker gives you the opportunity to work the polls this election day, as well as future elections,” Andrew Bruskin, a fellow with the project, said in an e-mail to prospective volunteers. “It will get you more involved in your community, not to mention a great resume boost and a little extra cash.”

Students who volunteer with the project will be trained by registrars in the localities in which the students will work as poll workers on Nov. 2. Localities involved include James City and York Counties, but will not include the City of Williamsburg.

The Tidewater Roots Poll Project is working with six universities in the area: the College, Christopher Newport University, Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University and Regent University.

“The project is shooting for an average of 40 people for the six schools it’s involved with,” Michael Douglass ’11 said.

While the project’s main goal is to provide election officials to localities lacking sufficient staffing, another objective is to inspire student political engagement.

According to a Gallup poll, only 51 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were enthusiastic about voting this year. Douglass said that the Project could help combat the lack of voting interest among college-aged people.

“The lowest voting rates are from people [aged] 18 to 24,” Douglass said. “What happened in the 2008 election was an exception, and may not happen again.”

Volunteers must be undergraduates at either the College or any of the five other schools involved, be registered to vote in Virginia, attend a four-hour training session in October and work all day Election Day, Nov. 2.

“Part of what [they’re] trying to do is infuse the youth with a spirit of civic engagement,” Douglass said. “Hopefully, this will make those involved more likely to vote in the future, [and] make their friends more likely to vote. This thing could do a lot of good.”

The project does intend to offer an incentive to any volunteer as compensation — a $50 pre-paid Visa card, as well as the average rate of $120 for working Election Day.

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