DC high school students offered the opportunity to serve as election workers

Hadley Carr

Short on workers for the upcoming election, the DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) is offering high school students community service hours or a stipend to serve as an Election Day worker. Students may apply for a variety of shifts, each with its own benefits. 

In order to be eligible for the position, students must be a DC resident, at least sixteen years-old, and be committed to a four-hour training upon application. Students will likely be trained for two positions: ballot clerk and attending to curbside voters. Spokesperson LaDawne White explains that students often work well with technology and have the flexibility and energy to attend to curbside voters, and are able to process their information quickly and accurately.

Following training, Election Day workers may choose to work up to six shifts during the Early Voting period from October 27 to November 2. Workers may also work a shift on Election Day, November 3. Students may work an eight-hour shift in the morning or afternoon where they can receive $125, eight community service hours, or a combination of four service hours and $65. Students may also choose to work a half day shift earning $65 or four service hours. In all cases, the absences for students are excused.

Assignments will take place in Vote Centers located in public and private schools, libraries, recreation centers, and churches throughout the city. 

The DCBOE expects large crowds for this year’s election. Voters are encouraged to vote early in anticipation of longer lines given a mandated distance of six-feet between each voter. Social distancing isn’t the only measure in place. Masks will be provided to workers and voters. Workers will also be given gloves and equipment will be sanitized regularly. White notes that thus far there have been no reported cases or incidents from the presidential primary that took place on June 2. Wilson junior and election day worker Ayanna McClellan is still wary of COVID-19. “There is still a pandemic going on, so [I’m] risking my health to make sure everyone [can] vote.” 

Currently at 1,000 workers, the DCBOE is aiming to recruit a total of 4,000 workers for the upcoming election. The shortage of workers is due to a preceding employee population of mainly older or retired citizens. “Our election workers are among the vulnerable population, so they’re concerned about the coronavirus, and that’s understandable,” said board spokesperson LaDawne White in an interview with WJLA. 

Short of 2,000 to 3,000 workers, the DCBOE has turned to the next generation in hopes to fill the gap. In an effort to gain more student workers, the board is offering several virtual open house opportunities. In making students aware of the “learn and earn” opportunity, there are now around forty students from Wilson signed up. A couple days ago, only ten had signed up.  

McClellan is choosing to serve as an election worker because she “wants to make sure this election is successful with all the chaos that has happened in 2020.” 

As an Election Day worker, students must take an oath of electioneering stating that they will not support any particular candidate nor will they campaign for office. McClellan doesn’t believe this will be difficult to follow. “I have to respect other people’s political views even if I may not agree with their choices.” 

Ultimately, the DCBOE is hoping to avoid having a shortage of workers. “We know that [being understaffed] would be an issue. So in the meantime, what we’re trying to do to prepare for that and avoid that is to really ramp up recruitment, and we’re targeting our high school students,” White told WJLA. She adds that the program is “definitely a learn and earn opportunity. It’s designed to allow students to gain civic awareness and also promote community involvement.”

Students may call (202) 727-2525 with any questions. Applications for the Election Day worker program are still open. Students can apply at https://www.dcboe.org/dcboe/media/PDFFiles/Fillable-Student-Election-Worker-Application_-08262020-(4).pdf