Election season engagement opportunities

April 25, 2024, 8:51 a.m. | By Alex Feingold-Black | 1 month, 3 weeks ago

During the election season, Blazers can find ways to give to their communities, despite not being old enough to vote

“We really do need help. We need over 4000 election workers to facilitate these elections, so we need everybody's help,” Aishah Mills-Pherigo says, an election worker recruitment coordinator for the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

With the 2024 election taking place on Nov. 5, high schoolers under the voting age may feel powerless, yet there are still opportunities for high schoolers to get involved during the election season.

Election polls

One of the earliest opportunities for high schoolers interested in getting involved in the election season is on May 14, when primary elections occur. During this time, any high schoolers registered to vote in Maryland—which you can do starting at 16 years old—are eligible to be election workers. Election workers can work both at poll sites to assist voters, and also at the Board of Elections to count ballots. In exchange, workers receive either a stipend of up to $750 or Student Service Learning (SSL) hours.

To earn the $750 total, election workers must serve during early voting weekend (May 4-5) and on election day (May 14). Each work day is far longer than the typical eight-hour work day, however, and includes a variety of tasks that help voters submit their vote.

“Our day starts at 6 a.m. [Election workers] help set up the polling place during the election in voting times… [they] help the voters check in so they would look their information up in one of our poll books, guide them to the appropriate ballot, and distribute the appropriate ballot. We have election workers who are at our scanning machines that will assist the voters in scanning and then of course we have the exit where you get your I Voted sticker as you leave,” Mills-Pherigo says.

Volunteering at election polls can be a great service to the local community. Art courtesy of Bitanya Hailu.

To become an election worker, one must first complete an online quiz and an in-person training, Mills-Pherigo explains. “The first part is an online quiz, and it's a 50-question quiz. Once you complete the first part of the training, [recruiters] will send you an email to sign up for in-person training. And that's when you'll come into your training class and you'll learn how to actually use all of the training material that you'll need throughout the day on election day,” she says.

Despite the large time commitment, being an election worker has benefits reaching beyond cash in your pocket; it’s a good way to get involved in your community and learn about the voting system. “It's important for us to get involved and be aware of what's going on around us. And this is just really an opportunity for whatever reason you want to use it for it's an opportunity to learn what goes on with the democratic process,” Mills-Pherigo says,

To sign up to be an election worker, go to this link here (16 years or older).

Clubs and other advocacy

High schoolers, however, do not have to wait until May to get involved in the election season. Some people, including Blair Young Democrats’ (BYD) president and junior Lily Eames, start advocating for political change long before the election season begins.

Since the Maryland State Board of Elections is a non-partisan organization, election workers can not extend their beliefs and influence to others. Advocates like Eames, on the other hand, can. On March 13, Eames and the BYD club lobbied bills at the Maryland State House. Their proposed bills dealt with issues surrounding book banning, gender reforming care, voting age, and sexual extortion—issues that the club members are passionate about, and not necessarily what the democratic party always pushes for.

“[The bills we lobbied for] go into our overarching goal as a club, which is not to hype up Democrats all the time… We're not always gonna go along with what everybody in the party is, you know, pushing for. And so we are always trying to go with what we think is good rather than with what the leaders of the party say, or what the president says,” Eames says.

While lobbying for bills in front of legislators may seem intimidating, Eames and her club partake in various other activities to create political change. For example, the club phone banked for the last midterm elections in 2022. “Phone Banking is always kind of fun and silly, because like, we very rarely get people to actually answer but it's always a little funny,” Eames says.

Eames also plans to organize a “Get the word out” rally for her club to encourage eligible students and staff at Blair to vote in the 2024 presidential election. Some Blazers, though, can vote in city elections even before they turn 18. For example, in Takoma Park, the voting age for city elections is just 16, meaning both underclassmen and upperclassmen can influence who their local officials are.

Such activities like the one Eames and BYD do, may seem small, but add up. Joining a club or just getting involved in an organization that supports your beliefs is one of the best actions high schoolers can take during the election season.

“But I think that the best way you can get involved is just, you know, like putting yourself out there looking for places to follow big places to knock on doors. I think one of the big things to do is to focus on areas that do need to be convinced…travel or look at other places in order to really make an impact…even doing a couple of things really helps,” Eames says.

Whether signing up to be an election worker or joining a club, now is the best time to start getting involved in the election season. 2024 is the election year, with national elections in over 64 countries, representing nearly half of the world. It’s up to you to decide how you will shape the future, whether that’s voting, helping other people vote, or finding your own way to advocate.

Last updated: April 25, 2024, 8:53 a.m.

Alex Feingold-Black. Hey! I'm Alex [he/him] and I'm the Feature Editor and External Manager for SCO. Outside of school you can find me running laps around a track and eating from Potbelly's Sandwich Shop. More »

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