Graduate“I helped a Somalian woman vote for the first time. It was the most patriotic feeling I’ve ever had.” Suffolk University Student.
In June 2006, Suffolk University received a grant from the Center for Election Integrity at Cleveland State University to pilot a guidebook on how to successfully recruit college students.
Suffolk University partnered with the City of Boston in the fall 2006 general election to recruit college students to serve as poll workers. The program was a resounding success.
More than 300 students from all over Suffolk University worked as poll workers in schools and libraries throughout the city of Boston on election day 2006, becoming a new generation of poll workers.
Suffolk students went to the polls at 6:00 a.m, hauling ballots, helping to set up voting machines, welcoming voters, translating voter questions, assisting voters with disabilities, and learning first-hand about democracy in action.
Rising sophomore and government major Emilia Losowska said she, “learned many things about the challenges of poll working and the complexities of an election” by working as a poll worker. “I learned that democracy really is messy and really difficult.”
The challenges facing the United States’ electoral process are vast – from the problems posed by voting machines and ballot design to the controversy surrounding voter IDs. A less noted, yet equally critical problem, is the issue of staffing polling locations.
What is the University Pollworkers Project (UPP)?
The University Pollworkers Project is a collaboration between Suffolk University, MassVOTE and Boston area schools. Suffolk University and MassVOTE help area colleges and universities recruit students to serve as poll workers, we assist faculty to integrate students-as-poll workers into their syllabi and their curricula. In addition, we provide guest lectures and provide supplemental training to students who serve as first-time poll workers.
Our goal is to offer diverse colleges and high schools the chance to participate in our electoral process. We wish to recruit students who represent the diversity of Boston; offer teachers and professors a chance to let students see democracy in action close-up; and build a lasting program that gives the City of Boston a secure source of poll workers, year after year, while helping to create a generation of empowered engaged citizens.
What is a Poll Worker?A poll worker is a citizen who helps with the administration of elections for on Election Day – it is a one-day, paid job.
Duties may include helping voters sign-in, checking voter registration, assisting voters with special needs, and helping voters navigate new voting technology.
What is the Poll Worker Crisis?The average age of a poll worker in the United States is 72. The nation’s aging corps of poll workers poses a national crisis. As the scarcity of poll workers increases, the election process itself is profoundly threatened. Longer lines, closed polls, and the potential for greater confusion and mistakes have dramatically increased, even as the election process itself has become more technologically demanding and intricate.
Why should I be a Poll Worker?Serving as a poll worker serves democracy. Poll workers make elections work. We could not have elections without teams of people staffing polling locations, ensuring that every vote is cast. Most poll workers feel gratified by the experience and feel as if they have truly served the public, having performed a critical civic duty.
Links on Election Administration and Election Research
- Boston Election Department
- Massachusetts Secretary of State Election Division
- Electionline.org Pew Center on the States
- United States Election Assistance Commission
- United States Election Assistance Commission Guidebook for Recruiting College Pollworkers
- American Enterprise Institute/Brookings Election Reform Project
- Hearing on Poll Workers on CSPAN
- Election Administration Research Center, University of California Berkeley
- Center for American Politics and Citizenship
- CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project