News // July 16, 2014

Student Volunteers Make an Impact in the Community on Election Days

The County of San Diego Registrar of Voters Student Poll Worker Program is proud to be a part of the Live Well San Diego initiative supporting two Areas of Influence : Knowledge and Community.  The Student Poll Workers Program gives high school students the opportunity to learn and gain firsthand experience by participating in the electoral process, as well as supporting their community through service at various precinct locations.

Since 2000*, the Registrar of Voters has partnered with more than 180 schools throughout San Diego County to provide students the opportunity to work in a local polling place and earn community service hours.  Each student receives a signed certificate from Michael Vu, Registrar of Voters, acknowledging their participation. Depending on the school district’s policy, the student may also earn an Associated Student Body stipend, which is then donated to the school, or earn a direct stipend.  San Diego Unified School District, Sweetwater District, and local Charter and private schools participate in the program.

Poll workers in the County of San Diego are U.S. citizens who are registered to vote in California, or are persons who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States.  Poll workers give their valuable time by working at community polling places on Election Day so their fellow citizens can exercise their voting rights.

Students may work in two of the five poll worker positions available:
1. Touchscreen Inspector - Set up the electronic voting system (touchscreen), help set up the poll, assist voters and close the poll

2. Clerk - Help set up the poll, take care of voters and close the poll

Serving in either position, bilingual student poll workers assist voters who may not speak English well enough to feel comfortable and informed by providing assistance which enables these citizens to vote in their first language.  Bilingual assistance to voters is required by federal law and is a commitment of the County of San Diego. All volunteers cross train with each other and all poll workers are trained to check the rosters, support the provisional voter, give ballots and receive voting materials.

Since March 2004, the student poll worker program has placed 11,080 students to support the limited-English-proficiency community.  Bilingual students provide language assistance in Chinese, Filipino, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Here’s what student poll workers say about the program:

“This opportunity increased my knowledge and appreciation for the voting process. Largely because of this experience, I am eager to become a voter.”

“Many people thanked us for volunteering at the polls and it made me realize that some do take the elections seriously. This experience was worthwhile because working at the polls taught me valuable customer service skills and I would want to work at the polls again.”

“I have learned the real importance of voting and the training and commitment it takes to be poll worker.”

Precinct Inspectors, who are in charge of their local poll, also appreciate the student poll worker program:

“We really enjoy working with students. The more the merrier. Students have great work ethic.”

“I think that students are an excellent source of help and hopefully inspire them to continue being active voters.”

“I can only suggest that we continue using students as part of any team.  They are polite, sincere, and add the element of youth into the entire set-up.”

If you know a student who might be interested in participating, they must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a Student Poll Worker Application including signature of parent/guardian, and high school authorization approving their participation
  • Complete online and in-person trainings
  • Be 16 years of age on or before Election Day
  • GPA of at least 2.5 on 4.0 scale
  • Serve from 5:45 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Election Day

Many students continue to support the poll worker program while attending college and recruit family members to join in supporting voters within their communities on Election Day.  

The 2014 Gubernatorial General Election will be on November 4, 2014.  The Registrar of Voters needs students, returning poll workers, friends and family members to volunteer as poll workers for the upcoming elections.

Visit the website to learn more about College, County, State and Student Poll Worker programs. 

In the spirit of a healthy, safe, and thriving San Diego County, here’s to our students making a difference in our community!

* In August 1996, the State Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 1856, permitting high school students to serve as precinct board members.  As a result, the Registrar of Voters began its successful partnership with local high schools in 2000 and in the fall of 2006, legislation was signed removing the restriction that student poll workers must be seniors in high school.