Thanks to a recent federal grant of nearly $75,000, a larger number of Missouri Western students will have the chance to gain some valuable experience and insight into the inner workings of our electoral process by working as poll workers in upcoming area elections.
The grant comes as one of the many provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. As Buchanan County Clerk Pat Conway explained, many of the recommendations under the act centered on technological upgrades and the phasing out of older procedures such as the punch-card style ballots that caused many problems in the 2000 elections.
As a result of these upgrades, he said students with little or no knowledge of the electoral process shouldn’t be intimidated if they’re interested in becoming a poll worker.
“Many of the duties include using laptop computers to check voter rolls and direct voters to their proper polling locations, as well as counting ballots with electronic ballot scanners, which most younger people are a lot more experienced with and comfortable using than older, more experienced poll workers,” Conway said.
Conway also added that another benefit for college students working elections is that they’ll become more knowledgeable about politics. He said this would help ensure younger people become more politically active in the future, which is the trend Conway said he’s seen in recent years.
“September 11th was the turning point,” Conway said. “Before that point, the attitude of young people toward politics was kind of lackadaisical. But after that, with the events following in the years after 9/11, young people began to see politics as something they may want to be more involved in.”
Theresa Grieshaber is a criminal justice-legal studies major who took part in the program last year. She explained some of her duties as a poll worker.
“I came in from 6 that morning to 6 that night,” Grieshaber said. “I helped with absentee ballots and registered incoming voters. I was also just basically there to help any voters that may have come in and found that they were in the wrong polling location, and I would help them locate their proper voting precinct.”
She added that working elections is also a paying job, and a good way for students to make extra money.
Overseeing the program is David Tushaus, chair of the Criminal Justice and Legal Studies department at Missouri Western. He stresses that, despite many of the past participants–criminal justice or law majors–the program is open to all students.
“Our goal is to have around 30 students participating in the program this year, which will basically depend on the number of workers required by area polling places,” Tushaus said.
Any Missouri Western student interested in taking part in the program is encouraged to contact Tushaus by calling (816) 271-5627 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.