Aspen High students step up as election judges
ASPEN – While Election Day will be just like any other school day for most Aspen High School students, a handful of seniors will be on the front lines manning the polling booths.
“It’s a great opportunity for these kids and the community,” said Aspen High civics teacher Karen Green, who coordinates the local student election judge program with Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudilll. “But being an election judge is very serious.”
In fact, the eight student judges will show up for work at 6 a.m. and stay until after the polls are closed at 7 p.m. They can receive service-hours credit or be paid for their time, according to http://www.pitkinvotes.org.
“These are kids who are really intrigued by the voting process. They want to be involved, and this is a great way for them to do that,” Green said. “None of this could be accomplished, though, without the staff at the Pitkin County Clerk’s Office. They really guide us through the program.”
In order to serve as a student election judge, kids must be at least 16 years old and a junior or senior “in good standing” at a public or private high school. Students also must be U.S. citizens and get permission from a parent and from the school principal. Since there are a limited number of spots available, Aspen students are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to seniors.
And like their adult counterparts, student election judges must study for the job and attend a three-hour training prior to the election.
“These kids have made a big commitment,” Green said. “It’s a lot of preparation and a very long day. Plus, when they come back to school, they talk with the civics classes about what the job entails, what the election process is like.
“It’s really neat because most kids haven’t been through it before; only a handful of seniors are even old enough to vote.”
Green believes the community at large also gets a lot out of the student election judge program, which is sanctioned by the state of Colorado.
“I think the community really appreciates what these kids are doing,” she said. “They are bright, detail oriented and are well versed in technology.
“It’s a great relationship builder for the community.”
Of course as a civics teacher, Green sees another benefit to having students serve as election judges.
“I want to be sure that our youth understand that free and fair elections are the measure of a democratic society,” she said. “These student election judges become ambassadors of that idea. And hopefully they can engage more young people to become involved, as well.”
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