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electionlineWeekly — November 13, 2014

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I. In Focus This Week

News Analysis: The kids are alright
Millennials stayed away, but young people worked hard Nov. 4

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Before the polls had even opened last week political prognosticators were predicting low voter turnout numbers, especially amongst Millennials.

Since then, much has been written about why young people didn’t bother to vote. Exit polls conducted by Fox and CNN peg the 18 to 29-year old age group with a 13 percent turnout.

While advocates and officials will spend the next two years wondering and worrying about getting young people to vote, one group of young people who can’t even cast ballots yet made all the difference on November 4.

From California to Ohio and everywhere in between thousands of young people got up earlier than usual and worked longer than normal to help make sure the vote went smoothly.

In San Joaquin County, California more than 600 high schools students worked the polls. The students accounted for about one third of the county’s poll workers.

Ted Younessi, a poll worker trainer for the county told KCRA that teenagers make great poll workers because they are “…used to have someone standing in front of them talking…”

While some polling places in Illinois were plagued with problems on Election Day, on bright spot in several jurisdictions were the teen poll workers.

“From what I’ve seen, the kids who help out are very educated about elections from their government classes in school,” said Barb Link, Henry County, Illinois clerk/recorder.

Link told the Dispatch-Argus that having students work at the polls helps instill in them a responsibility for a lifetime of voting.

Tech-savvy teens helped prove their worth at the polls in Minnesota where e-pollbooks were being more widely rolled out this election.

In St. Peter, Minnesota, head election judge Mike Torkelson, 72, told the St. Peter Herald that the teen elections judges at his polling site seemed to handle the technology better than some of the more experienced judges.

“It’s been a good addition to our group,” Torkelson told the paper. “They’ve really done a great job.”

When Monroe County, Indiana found itself short about 70 poll workers for a successful Election Day, the clerk’s office decided to tap into the teen population.

Before the clerk’s office even had an opportunity to set up recruiting events at local high schools, they received about 100 messages from students interested in working the polls on Election Day.

"Now (parents) have something to discuss with their kids," Mary Norman told The Herald-Times. "How do you talk to your kids about politics?"

Probably our favorite story comes from Athens, Ohio where 11-year-old Parker Colvin serves as an election night runner for the Athens County Board of Elections.

Parker’s mom Aundrea works at the board of elections and Parker has long been a fixture around the office, especially on election nights.

“I started just because I was waiting for my dad to pick me up, and then it became a lot of fun,” Parker told the Athens Messenger.

Getting started in the elections business early is a family tradition, Parker’s mother said she started working at the board when she was 16 or 17.

“I started that and now I’ve done every job there is other than director or deputy director,”Aundrea Parker told The Messenger.

But having teens at the polls isn’t just about their ability to work long hours and use a computer, it’s also about camaraderie and bringing generations together.

In Contra Costa County, California longtime poll worker Enrique Suarez del Solar spent her 80th birthday working alongside 17-year-old Luis Nunez.

“I’m pretty much enjoying it,” Nunez told the Richmond Confidential. “I’m learning how to set up the polls and do some of the paperwork and talk to older people to get some knowledge and make new friends.”

Of course not everything goes as planned when you have teenagers working the polls on Election Day.

One teen poll worker Orange County, California had to be relieved of her duties after it was discovered that she was sending out inappropriate tweets during her shift.

“It’s completely inappropriate and she’s being removed,” Kelley told The Los Angeles Times on Election Day. “They’re trained very clearly that that kind of behavior is unacceptable.”

Obviously inexcusable, but at least she didn’t bite someone.