By Abril Pereznegron ’18
It all started with a friend of mine, senior Annette Pabello, who brought up the idea of being High School Election judges. At first, I was not sure what this would be like, but after reading over some information, I was excited for it.
So what, exactly, does an election judge do?
An election judge encourages high school students to vote and educate them about the voting process that takes place during elections in Illinois. Additionally, those who volunteered were financially compensated for their time and tasks that they were assigned.
Mikva Challenge contacts administrators and works closely with the Chicago Board of Elections to motivate High School students to participate. The registration process began by filling out an online application. This application asked for personal information, such as your school and your political affiliation, just to name a few and was kept confidential. Furthermore, a school administrator was asked to verify students’ GPA. Paige Moran, Dean of Students, was selected to approve and confirm that the information applicants provided was correct.
After completing an online application, I received an email that provided election judge training information, which was to be conducted by the Chicago Board of Elections. I was able to select from different dates, which were mostly when CPS schools did not have class. The goal of training was to expose students to the voting processes and protocols that judges would follow the day of elections.
Training, for the most part, took place at Block 37 (108 N. State St.) located near Millenium Park and was required for all high school students. Despite training being four hours long, the activities were very engaging. Training opened with an introductory speech that acknowledged and thanked students for attending training that day. As the day went on, more information was provided in a protocol book. In conjunction with the book, the information was also presented, questions were asked, and students then had the opportunity to engage in real-life interactive protocols, then learning how to operate a paper ballot scanner and a digital ballot scanner, which I was not aware existed. Pabello commented on “I liked learning how to work different machines.”
On March 20, Primary Election day, those participating as election judge volunteers had to report to their respective polling place by 5:00 a.m. and divide and complete tasks throughout the day. In addition to myself, many had to travel all over the city of Chicago, but luckily for me, my polling place was only ten minutes away from home.
I spent most of my day, until about 9 p.m., greeting people at the register table, taking down personal information, handing out ballots, and translating for Spanish speakers. I really enjoyed my time volunteering as I was able to learn how the voting process works and why it is so important to vote.
Jocelin Luna, who also participated commented that “Knowing that I was helping my community with their right to vote,” was her favorite part of this experience. Mikva Challenge did a fantastic job this year garnering interest in the election process and encouraging continued participation for the next elections.