Democracy takes work.
It’s a form of government that relies on citizen participation. Not even the position of the president can be obtained without an election and consent from the electoral majority. It’s a process that is the bedrock of our nation’s form of government.
Paulina Cossette, assistant professor of the JU political science department, knows that elections play an integral part in America’s form of democracy. And with the presidential election coming up in November, she decided to create the “Elections in the United States” class so students can better understand the election process.
“I want students to know that rules structuring elections are extremely important,” said Cossette. “The outcomes of elections are largely influenced by the rules of who is allowed to run, who can vote, and how much money can be raised.”
Sometimes learning requires a hands-on approach. And that is exactly what Cossette’s students will be getting this semester.
“’Elections in the United States’ is a student-service class,” said Cossette. “So I had the idea to have them work at the polling stations during the elections.”
This type of service requires a collaborative effort. Cossette contacted Greg Clark of the Duval County Supervisors of Elections to begin taking the steps necessary for her students to work at the polls.
Being an official poll worker trainer, Clark was able to get the JU students ready for the upcoming elections.
“We ensure they are registered to vote in Duval County,” said Clark. “Then they must take a mandatory four hour class that explains the proper procedures of the polling stations and casting votes. They learn everything from how to cast votes to how to stay non-partisan on the day of the election.”
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the national average age of U.S. poll workers is 72.
With an aging population of poll workers, the supervisors of elections wants to recruit a younger demographic of volunteers says Clark.
“Many of our poll workers have been helping with the elections for years .We love them, but it would absolutely be nice to have some younger volunteers. It strengthens our elections day team, and hopefully the younger adults will enjoy the experience and stay with us for years to come.”
Alfred Battle is one of those potential recruits. A political science major, he saw the unique opportunities the class had to offer him.
“Having the chance to work the polls in such an important election and seeing the voter turnout is appealing,” said Battle. “I believe the only way for someone to know about the importance of their vote is that it must be taught at young age. The youth are the future, and their knowledge of voting will aid them in knowing that all votes matter and that there’s no such thing as a wasted vote.”
The voter turnout is expected to be almost 81 percent, so the JU students will get plenty of polling experience, says Clark.
“They have to be at the station a 6 a.m. sharp and cannot be late,” said Clark. They will be working until the last eligible voter has cast their ballot. As long as a voter is in line by 7 p.m., the poll will stay open, so the station could be open from 9 to 10 p.m. if necessary.”
Cossette plans to use this experience as part of the Elections in The United States curriculum.
“We will meet up the day after the elections and reflect on their experience during election day,” said Cossette. “We will discuss the results of the election and the face of the country. We will look at voter participation and voter numbers. We will see the effects of our participation in the election.”
The hard work that will be put in by Battle and his classmates on election day is something to be proud of, says Clark.
“It’s nice to have those volunteers who find investment in the work. And we want them to know the people appreciate their work. We thank you.”