Teenagers replace older poll workers due to COVID-19


Photo by Allie Emmet

TAKING ACTION: Student election judge fills out the First Judge Application.

Allie Emmet, A&E Editor

When people usually envision a poll worker, they see a retired, elderly person. Due to COVID-19, the demographic of who is working the polls is changing. Many of the usual, older workers are unable to this year, due to being at the highest risk for COVID-19. That’s where teenagers come in. 

From late-night shows like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to school districts, the message is being promoted that teens should help fill the vacancy at polls this election cycle. Junior Helen Larkin has taken them up on their offer.

“I think it’s really important for young people to work the election this year because older people usually do it. Because of COVID-19, a lot of them are being cautious and staying home this year,” Larkin said.

When 16-17-year-old students work at polling stations, they have the title and responsibility of being an election judge. An election judge is someone who ensures the election process runs smoothly and assists voters in the problems they may encounter.

“If someone’s having an issue, they send over a Democratic and a Republican judge, so that everything is equal and fair,” election judge junior Gwen Casten said.

The application to become an election judge is found on the Dupage County Clerk’s Website and it is called the First Judge Application, as it is made for high school students under the age of 18. Larkin explains how to apply to be an election judge.

“The application process was pretty simple. I just had to fill out a few details about me and then I sent it to Mrs. Schwarze because the application requires a principal’s signature to make sure you have a good GPA. After that, I just emailed the form to the election division and they got back to me a couple of days later,” Larkin said.

Although future election judges know about the prospect of working polls, senior Isabella Sauer has prior experience, as she was an election judge during the primaries.

“At the end of the day, just seeing how many people came in, I realized how much people need this. Also, seeing the news and how many people are unable to work this year, it feels good to take part and be one of the people who were there,” Sauer said.

Gail Kalinich, District Director for the U.S House Representative Sean Casten, seconds the opinion on how rewarding the experience of helping our community and country can be for young people.

“It’s a way to ‘serve your country’ without having to make a long commitment like joining the military or anything — you are pretty much done all in one day,” Kalinich said.

Not only is it viewed as a duty by young people, but many students are very interested in the process and experience.

“Personally, as someone who is very engaged in politics, it is important to me to get involved since I can’t vote. It’s a long day, but if you’re a nerd like me and like politics, I think you will enjoy it,” Sauer said.

Of course, not every student is interested in politics, but being an election judge informs one of how our democracy truly works. 

“Being involved in the election process and just being more knowledgeable on the subject of voting motivates me to be a worker,” election judge junior Natalie Mall said.

While many teenagers across the country have already signed up to be election judges to help this election, social studies teacher Keith Lichtenberg calls for more students.

“Right now, I think there’s a lot of negativity and criticism being shared upon your generation. People say you are too interested in your phones and not in politics. More interested in getting likes than you are in liking our government, right? I’ve seen enough evidence in my students to know that’s not true,” Lichtenberg said. “You should step up to serve because what a great opportunity to during this time of crisis and division. You get to step up and do something for others. What else can you ask for?”