Students pitching in to help get out the vote

September 16, 2008

Dozens of McDaniel College students are turning their words in action by signing up to work as election judges at polling places across Carroll and Baltimore counties during the November election.

McDaniel was one of two Maryland colleges --- the other is the University of Baltimore --- and 25 others nationwide awarded grants this summer from the Help America Vote College Program.

McDaniel was awarded $32,000 to recruit students to work the polls on Election Day, Nov. 4.

“A big part of the objective is to get young people involved,” said Debora Johnson-Ross, associate professor of political science, who is organizing the college’s effort with a team of students and professors.

“This is a generation that is really disconnected from the fact that people really did die to get the right to vote,” Johnson-Ross said. “Because everything has come easily to them, the idea of people being disenfranchised is strange to them.”

This is the first year McDaniel has been awarded one of the grants, which will allow the college to enlist as many as 100 students to work the polls, Johnson-Ross said.

To participate, students must be registered to vote in Maryland and commit to a three-hour training session at the county elections board. Students will be paid $25 for completing the training, and can expect to be paid about $160 for their work at the polls on Election Day.

The students can be spotted on campus starting Sept. 22 wearing their Help America Vote T-shirts every Tuesday until Election Day to help encourage others to vote.

Election Day duties will include greeting voters, checking off names on the voter registry and checking identification, showing voters how to use voting machines and making sure that all registered voters get the chance to vote.

Students who are not registered to vote in Maryland may participate in other capacities, such as serving as translators for voters.

The Help America Vote College Program is a major initiative of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent bipartisan commission. The EAC launched the Help America Vote College Program three years ago to alleviate poll worker shortages, such as those experienced during the 2004 election, according to the EAC’s Web site.

The EAC estimates that nearly 9,000 college students will become poll workers as a result of the grants.