Students participate in civic process

From working as election clerks to interning for local politicians, students have found ways to get involved in the political process despite being too young to vote. While a majority of high school students cannot vote, they are still able to learn about the democratic process.

Senior Alexandra Crosnoe worked as an election clerk during the 2020 election. Her tasks included helping people insert their ballots into the ballot machine and handing out “I Voted” stickers.

“I think it’s really important that there are people there to facilitate [the voting process] because we want to make sure that Americans can exercise their right,” Crosnoe said.

Crosnoe said she wants to do whatever she can to make sure people have the ability to cast their vote, which cannot happen without poll workers there to make sure the process runs smoothly.

At the polls, workers are not allowed to talk about politics, creating an environment for citizens to cast their vote without bias.

Students can apply to be poll workers with parental approval at 16, and they make $16 an hour.

Working the polls is not the only way for students to make an impact in local elections. Junior Diya Hegde has so far worked on four candidates’ campaigns: Hosanna Yemiru, Deborah Peoples, Beto O’Rourke and, most recently, Sandeep Srivastava.

Toward the end of her freshman year, she interned for Hosanna Yemiru’s Dallas City Council campaign, making phone calls and conducting donor research. She also researched Yemiru’s policies so she would have the knowledge to gain voter support.

“It was a grassroots election, so more than anything, it was really important to get donors and funding for the campaign,” Hegde said.

Hegde also was involved in the Beto O’Rourke for Texas campaign, which was a little different
from her previous experience. She wrote letters to constituents, encouraging them to come out and listen to O’Rourke’s plans. She even attended a couple of town hall meetings with O’Rourke, watching him speak and meeting other like-minded teenagers and adults who supported his campaign.

Hegde said it feels good to take action and to apply what she has learned in her history classes.

“It feels like I’m a part of something a lot bigger than myself,” Hegde said. “I’ve learned so much on these campaigns, from dealing with people who don’t always have the same ideas as I do to knocking on doors in a safe way.”

By encouraging people face-to-face to vote, Hegde said she received the valuable experience of working in a professional field.

During her freshman and sophomore years, Hegde devoted around 10 hours a week to a campaign. As a junior, she spends around five hours.

When making a phone call for a campaign, Hegde starts by introducing herself. She then asks the person how their day is going to ease them into the conversation. After that, she explains why she is calling and tries to convince them to vote, giving them the dates of the election.

“More than anything, that’s the priority – getting people out there and getting them voting and involved in their government,” Hegde said.

Finally, she explains the policies of her candidate, hoping to rally support for his or her causes. Sometimes, she will cherry-pick policy areas based on the demographic – typically according to age.

Hegde said she thinks it is important for teenagers like herself to get involved in the political process to convince the younger generations to vote. She sees people close to her age involved in political thought on the internet, yet voters aged 18-24 are far outnumbered by those who are older.

“It’s very clear that these are topics that affect us, that teenagers care about, yet a lot of us don’t realize that there are ways that we can actively get involved and encourage community members to get out there,” Hegde said.

Hegde said she thinks the most important thing for teenagers is having an education about government and understanding how it works.

Senior Elle Chavis began working with state representative Victoria Neave during her sophomore year. She first worked at the polls during the special election in May.

“It was my first time ever working as a poll worker, which was a little scary and intimidating but it was also a very fulfilling and exciting experience,” Chavis said.

Chavis said her main goal is to keep things running smoothly as people are more likely to vote when the lines are shorter and they don’t have to wait for hours.

“One of the reasons that I love this is that you’re really interacting with the common, everyday sort of person,” Chavis said. “They go to work every day, they just want to make sure that their kids have food and that the electricity is on.”

Though she has enjoyed working with representative Neave, Chavis said she doesn’t think she would fare well in politics.

“Funnily enough, I actually got out of it that I don’t want to go into politics as a career,” she said. “I loved helping out with them but I was like, ‘Wow I could not do this for the rest of my life.’”