With the general election looming, Pine View seniors Alex Ivanchev, Ethan Temple and Emely Fernandez have taken the initiative to serve as youth poll workers for both the primary and general election on Nov. 3. Aside from the practical benefits of being a poll worker, including an excused absence and monetary compensation, these students also have an opportunity to fulfill their civic duty, helping their community carry out elections safely during this politically tumultuous time.
To become poll workers, each student must fill out an application, register to vote and complete a series of hours-long online courses. On the day of the election, poll workers are expected to arrive at the precinct by 6 a.m., finishing a full-day of work by 7 p.m. Each poll worker is assigned a specific role, but many teen poll workers become “youth inspectors.” This job entails signing in voters through an electronic polling book and distributing ballots.
Another crucial aspect of serving as a poll worker is ensuring that the tabulator, the machine that counts the ballots, is functioning properly. The tabulator shows voters that their ballot was counted, so it plays a major factor in building voter confidence, according to Ivanchev. Additionally, for the first time within Florida election voting centers, specific voting booths with an online format are provided for disabled voters. Poll workers facilitate and guide these voters through the process in a non-biased, apolitical manner.
While carrying out such tasks, Ivanchev is able to interact with volunteers and voters from a number of backgrounds, as he is working weekly shifts from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1 during early voting.
“I think one of the biggest things is remaining non-partisan. People are coming together despite their political differences… we just have one common goal. We are just trying to serve these voters,” Ivanchev said.
Temple was the only teenager at his specific precinct on Aug. 18, giving him the opportunity to interact with older poll workers and further bridge the gaps of understanding between generations.
“Honestly, it’s no different, really. They’re just as lively. I love working with them; they’re so full of life and very nice. Plus, what’s even better is that they [generally] hold different political beliefs from me… so it provides a lot of insight about the other side in terms of politics and what it means to actually be a federal civil servant,” Temple said.
On the other hand, Fernandez will begin working as a poll worker for the Nov. 3. election. Fernandez was inspired by Ivanchev’s interest in poll working, and decided she wanted to help her community’s elections flow smoothly like her friends.
“I’m a senior this year, and all my friends and classmates are 18, but I am 17, so I can’t vote. It’s unfortunate, because I think voting in this election is so important… I thought the least I could do to be involved was to help keep polling locations open. So I decided that since I couldn’t vote, I could at least make a difference by volunteering,” Fernandez said.
Students like Fernandez, as well as Ivanchev and Temple, have taken action in combating big-picture issues, such the lack of teenage recruitment in poll working. Ivanchev has taken action, co-founding the “Florida Youth Poll Workers” initiative on Instagram this year, at @flyouthpollworkers. Targeting the youth demographic, Ivanchev has built a social media presence for this initiative, informing students about the ramifications of a scarcity of workers during the elections.
“Even though I might be a high school student, I can still help change my community by ensuring that polling precincts within Sarasota County will remain open. If precincts were to close, they would be closing in the most disadvantaged areas. There will be less spots to vote, so people will travel farther. If there are more people at fewer polling precincts, there’s going to be longer lines to service. And, technically, that’s essentially going to deter people from voting,” Ivanchev said.
With a genuine concern for the wellbeing of future generations under the current government system, both Ivanchev and Temple mentioned that poll working has provided them with experience for future careers in politics. While Ivanchev wishes to pursue political science as a major in college, Temple aspires to become a lawyer for public policy in either the state or justice department.
“In order to understand the American governmental system, I need to understand how our elected officials get into office. So it provides a good first step into the world of civic responsibility,” Temple said.
Whether or not a student plans to be involved in government services in their career roadmap, Fernandez, Ivanchev and Temple all show that there are plentiful opportunities for anyone who wants to contribute their time to help their community.