Students Engage with Civic Process by Working at Polls

Posted: November 9, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Stephanie Hay

Freshman Lisa Lewis was one of more than 30 New Century College (NCC) students who worked at polls during last Tuesday’s general election. Melanie Szulczewski, term assistant professor in NCC, organized the College Poll Worker Initiative in an effort to engage science students in the civic process and address Virginia’s need for poll workers, whose average age is 72.

Lewis says she was excited to see so many people voting, although a few people were pushy because of the crowded lines. She helped people find their correct lines, handed out literature about bonds, helped with curbside voting, and ran the machines during her day at the polls.

“People died so we could have the right to vote,” she says. “It truly is a privilege, and I respect everyone who waited the two hours to vote. My help was always needed, and I am glad I did it.”

Freshman Rosemary Shepherd was also enthusiastic about participating. “Though it was a long day, I definitely think the poll-working experience was well worth it.” Shepherd says she helped check in and escort voters and explained to them how to use the machines. “By the end of the day, I could have probably used the machine with my eyes closed.”

She also was responsible for helping people find their correct polling place. “We checked and double-checked everything and made sure that none of the voters had any questions or concerns. I feel that I did a good job as a participant in the voting process in Fairfax County.”

Freshman Thomas Neale says he committed to working at the polls because he wants to be more involved in extracurricular activities and learn more about the election office. His only complaint was the long day, from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“We were given great responsibility in the polling process and it was a great feeling to know that we were trusted with this power and were ultimately successful. We did encounter a few angry people, but for the most part, all of the voters were pleasant. A few even thanked us personally for helping out with the election,” he says.

Lewis, who voted for the first time this year, says people at her polling place told her she was unique for wanting to be involved. “That isn’t true. I care, and so do all my friends, and that is why I decided to help.

“I got involved because I am tired of older people saying that our generation doesn’t do anything, and that we just don’t care what’s happening. I do care about who our president is because I will have to live with his decisions for the next four years, just like everyone else.”

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