Upperclassmen staff the polls

Juniors, seniors get politically involved in presidential election.


Julia-Rose Kibben

Early voters walk into San Francisco City Hall to cast ballots before election day on Nov. 8. Early voting began Oct. 24, and beginning Saturday, voters can cast ballots on weekends.

Claire Kosewic, Web Editor

For the majority of high schoolers unable to vote in the coming election, working at the polls can be an opportunity to become involved in an event anticipated, explained and debated in over 500 days of media coverage.

“It’s such an important year with the presidential election,” junior Katie Thomis, who plans to be a poll worker on Nov. 8, said. “Even though I can’t vote yet, I knew that I wanted to be involved somehow.”

The Election Day commitment is significant. Student poll workers arrive at their assigned polling places at 6 a.m. to assist with setting up the polling place, aid voters until the polls close at 8 p.m., and stay even later to clean up from the voting processes.

“I really appreciated the context in which this opportunity was presented to me,” Student Life Director Devin DeMartini Cooke said. “Civic duty, teaching you about the [electoral] process, is very [International Baccalaureate] and open-minded, making this something the school will support.”

San Francisco Department of Elections clerk Clint Wolfrom visited campus at the end of August to share the opportunity for high schoolers to staff the polls, which got many juniors and seniors interested in the prospect.

“I heard about working at the polls when he came to our class meeting,” Thomis said. “I was really intrigued by the option, as I had no idea that it was possible to be a part of the election without being able to vote.

Being a high school poll worker is not the only way for citizens not of voting age to become involved in the legislative process — working campaigns, phone banking for candidates or propositions, or attending political rallies all help connect students to elections, according to Wolfrom.

“The election for the City and County of San Francisco literally would not take place without our high school poll workers,” Wolfrom said. “Our poll workers are the backbone of the election, and high schoolers are a good chunk of those workers.”

Background insight on the democratic process, a unique way to service the diverse community of San Francisco and a $142 stipend attract people to serve in this capacity, according to Wolfram.

“Working at the polls means helping people who may have completely different views and opinions than you,” DeMartini Cooke said. “Democracy is all about having different perspectives so this kind of exposure is really a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of.”

Student poll workers also have the choice of donating all or part of their stipends to the Walk for Uganda fundraiser, raising money for scholarships to Sacred Heart schools in Uganda, where $675 sends a girl to school for a year. Those who choose to donate their stipends will be eligible for service hours.

“If nothing good comes out of this election at all, whatever your position is politically, this is about education and developing a better world,” DeMartini Cooke said. “You can participate in this event, gain experience and help fund a girl’s education in Africa — that is incredibly wonderful.”