Since the initial Pilot Program in November of 2005, more than 10,000 high school seniors have helped Central Ohio voters as part of the Youth at the Booth program. In partnership with the Franklin County Board of Elections, Kids Voting of Central Ohio operates the Youth at the Booth program which recruits, trains, and places 17- and 18-year old high school seniors as official poll workers each election.
Jeff Cabot, executive director of Kids Voting of Central Ohio, said, “This is real, hands on experience in democracy. The students constitute a talented workforce for conducting the election and get an important lesson in civics that is highly valued by educators.”
According to Suzanne Helmick, founding Director of Kids Voting, “when we began the program, students had to be 18 years old to work at the polls. But we worked with area legislators and students from Columbus Alternative High School to amend the law.” The state law was changed in 2006 to permit 17-year old high school seniors to serve as official Precinct Election Officials in Ohio.
The students are recruited through the Kids Voting partnership from all Franklin County school districts and trained as Machine Judges to operate the voting machines used in Franklin County. They are paid the same as adult poll workers and work the same long day – 5:30 a.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m.
William Anthony, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections said, “Our experience with the student poll workers has been very positive. They are an essential part of our operation.”
Dana Walch, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, observed that “Youth at the Booth students are likely to remain involved in the political process, so this program provides a next generation of poll workers and active voters.”
Kids Voting now works with the Delaware County Board of Elections as well.
“This is a significant milestone in our work to grow the next generation of active, informed citizens. Look for the white Youth at the Booth tee shirts at your polling place on Election Day,” Cabot concluded, “and congratulate them on their initiative and performance of a civic duty.”