Local Students Power the Polls

Talawanda H.S. student Jean Pateman outside the Oxford polling place where she's working all Election Day. Photo by Julie Coppens
Talawanda H.S. student Jean Pateman outside the Oxford polling place where she’s working all Election Day. Photo by Julie Coppens

Talawanda H.S. student and Democracy & Me intern Jean Pateman, 17, is one of thousands of American teenagers too young to vote this year, but still able to participate in today’s election in a crucial way: by working the polls.

Poll Hero, an organization leading the drive for younger workers to help run voting sites around the country, reported some 38,000 new recruits this year. In Ohio, the Youth at the Booth program has been running for years—but the need was especially great in 2020, due to the pandemic, and area students have stepped up big-time. We talked with Jean on her lunch break, about halfway through her 15-hour day of service at Kramer Elementary, a poling site in Oxford, Ohio. Things were pretty quiet and calm there, except when one voter lost a set of keys and much excitement ensued.

Here’s some of what Jean had to say:

Jean added that she’s certain to sign up to be a poll worker in future elections: “It’s definitely tiring, and so far it’s been pretty boring, but it’s still a cool thing to do. It’s like having a front-row seat on how our democracy works, and you really do feel like you’re helping it work better.”