Students from Proviso East High School, Proviso West High School, and Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy had a role in helping with this year’s primary elections on March 18.
Part of the Student Election Judge Program with the Cook County Clerk’s Office, the 39 students from District 209 were among hundreds of suburban Cook County high school students who manned polling stations across the county as election judges. Working in schools, churches, libraries, and anywhere else where registered voters could cast their vote for their party’s nominee for governor, senator, and other offices, the students did everything from verifying voters’ identities and registration to preparing ballots for voters to cast their selections.
Mr. Michael Tedor, a Proviso West social studies teacher who was the advisor for the Proviso West students who participated in the program, said that the juniors who served as election judges are leaders in their class. He said that he was hopeful that they could encourage other students to be involved in the electoral process.
"I was hoping, because the 18- to 24-year-olds are the lowest percentage of voters in the voting public, that this would give our high school students the opportunity to become familiar with the election process and hopefully participate when the time came," Mr. Tedor said. "Maybe next year, we can get a lot more students involved, which I think would be a really good thing."
Ms. Patricia Howard, chair of the PMSA social studies department and advisor of the PMSA student election judges, echoed those thoughts, saying that students as well as other family members benefit from their work at the polls.
"They gain a sense of civic responsibility and begin to gain an understanding of what the privilege to vote really means," she said. "Naturally, it follows that they are far more likely to vote in the future. Being entrusted with these responsibilities also really allows them to feel and become part of their communities."
To qualify as a student judge, a student must be at least a junior in high school, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, be an American citizen by the next election, complete an election judge training course through the clerk’s office, and have written consent from their principal and a parent.
For the students, it was an opportunity to serve in the community and to help with this country’s electoral process, despite working from the opening of the polls at 6 a.m. to when they closed at 7 p.m.
Elsa Rosales, a senior at PMSA, worked at the polling station at the Bellwood Public Library. She handed out ballots and activated cards that allowed voters to cast their ballots on electronic touch screens.
"They’re long hours, but they’re manageable," Elsa said. "We’re assisting voters, so it’s good.
Across the room at the Bellwood Library, Alexica Chavez, a senior at Proviso East, helped to verify voters’ identities. She said that she was encouraged to help out by her psychology and sociology teacher, Ms. Martina McEllistrim.
"I was interested," Alexica said. "They were trying to involve more students who are bilingual."
Danny Meza, a junior at Proviso West, was part of the team who worked at the polling place at the Hillside Village Hall. His main task was to record the name and address of each voter and put labels on ballots. He also was responsible for helping to count ballots at the end of the voting to ensure that the number of ballots matched what was in the records.
"I had an interest in it, and I went to the training," said Danny, who worked at the polls despite not being able to vote this year due to his 18th birthday falling after the general election on November 4. "It’s all worth it. It’s for college and education."
The students also received high marks for their work from the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
"As always, we received great reports about students," said Ms. Sue Ellen Colón, high school program coordinator in the Cook County Clerk’s Office’s communications department, in a letter to the teacher advisors. "It is my hope that every student that served learned something new about what makes democracy work and that they had a positive experience."
The following students worked as student election judges on March 18: