Hamilton High School senior Aaron Cook will be working his first election on Nov. 7 as part of the Butler County Board of Election’s “Youth at the Booth” program.
Scores of high school students work at the polls every election, and Cook, 17, signed up after getting some information in the mail. He also knew friends had worked the polls in last year’s election.
“It was a good opportunity to get involved in the political world,” he said.
Cook, and other high school students, will be a part of the 1,400 poll workers needed for Election Day. The Butler County Board of Elections needs another 300 poll workers in many key communities in Butler County.
“I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing but they said it’s a good experience all around,” Cook said. “I’m looking forward to going to be able to meet some new people.”
Though he’ll be working 15 hours on Election Day, sit in on a three-hour training session and earning $174 for his time, “it’s for a good cause,” Cook said.
Tammy Cuevas, Butler County Board of Elections Community Outreach coordinator, said the student program gives students a “great, hands-on learning opportunity about our democracy and the Board of Election gets tech-savvy poll workers” that frequently continue to serve for years.
“The program gives kids an opportunity to start learning about community service and involvement while they are young,” she said. “It is an introduction to the fulfillment that helping others can provide and, in many cases, is the beginning of a lifetime of service.”
She said Republicans and Democrats are needed to work the polls in Oxford. Democrats are needed in Ross Twp., Trenton, and West Chester Twp., and Republicans are needed in Fairfield and Middletown.
Fairfield High School social studies teacher Daniel Jacobs helped the elections office recruit more than 120 Fairfield students for last year’s election and about half ended up working the polls. He believes he and the other teachers in the social studies department can recruit just as many for this year’s local election.
“We do have a huge school to draw from, so that’s a piece of it,” said Jacobs of being able to recruit dozens of students. “We have a real strong social studies department and we just take it very seriously.”
He and his fellow department teachers instruct students that government “is something you do, not something you read about.”
According to the 2016 Ohio Civic Health Index, the state’s citizenry are not civically engaged. The report shows that most eligible Ohioans are registered to vote, but many fail to show up on Election Day. Local election years, such as this year, often see the lowest voter turnout compared to presidential elections, such as in 2016, that see the highest turnout.
Jacobs said there’s apathy among American citizens, “and it’s growing.”
He said student volunteers, and non-students who sign up to be poll workers, will “see that process play out right in front of their faces, and it’s pretty cool to see.”
“With rights comes responsibilities,” Jacobs said, adding that many of the poll workers are members of the Greatest Generation — who are from the World War II generation — which is rapidly decreasing in numbers every year.
“If nobody is going to do (volunteer) … we’re going to see much more problems,” he said. “The goal is to create a habit of citizenship.”