The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at The University of Texas at Austin is one of only 13 organizations from across the country selected to receive a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to foster student participation in the election process.
Under the auspices of the Help America Vote College Poll Worker program (HAVCP) the Annette Strauss Institute will create the UT Poll Worker Program to recruit and train college students in Travis County to be non-partisan poll workers for the 2009-10 election cycles.
"Despite the large number of colleges and universities in Travis County there is a marked lack of participation among young people in the operation of elections," said Deborah Wise, director of educational outreach for the Annette Strauss Institute. "By encouraging college students to become involved in the process as poll workers we can introduce them to the many ways they can become involved engaged in their community."
The UT Poll Worker Program will collaborate with campus organizations at The University of Texas at Austin and other colleges and universities in Travis County to recruit a broad array of young people-including bilingual, minority and disabled students-to work at polls. They will work as bilingual translators, laptop operators and sub-station workers, greeting and directing voters, setting up and tearing down polling places and counting and canvassing ballots. Poll workers will be paid by the Travis County Clerk Elections Division.
In addition to working with campus organizations to recruit poll workers, the UT Poll Worker Program will engage in peer-to-peer recruiting campaigns through an independent studies class and social media outreach. The organization will also engage in face-to-face recruiting through debate watch parties, student organization fairs and traditional advertising, and recruiting contests that leverage the natural rivals of campus communities, such as the student Greek system and political organizations.
The program will conduct a pilot recruitment program for the Nov. 3 special constitutional amendment election. Larger recruitment initiatives will take place for the March, April, May and November 2010 elections.
According to the Travis County Clerk Elections Division, the average age of a poll worker in the county is 72 and the county has difficulty recruiting assistants to count and canvass ballots, bilingual poll workers to assist Spanish-speaking voters and computer savvy/literate poll workers to electronically verify voter registration.
According to a 2005 EAC report 5.8 percent of polling places and 4 percent of precincts in the 2004 presidential election did not have the minimum number of required poll workers. This grant program will also leverage the technology skills of a tech-savvy generation as well as recruit the next generation of poll workers.
Students and student organizations interested in learning more about becoming poll workers should contact UT Poll Worker Coordinator Ashlyn Gentry 512-471-1959 or firstname.lastname@example.org.