By ABBEY NICKEL
While most of them won’t be voting in today’s election, eight Findlay High School students are getting a firsthand lesson about civic duty.
The Hancock County Board of Elections has hired the high school seniors to serve as precinct election workers on Election Day. This is the first year the elections board has employed high school students, said Jody O’Brien, elections board director.
The students are part of the “We the People” civics team at the high school, and are in an advanced placement government class taught by high school teacher Mark Dickman.
“I think people don’t actively get involved in their community like they should. It’s really great to not just help people exercise their right to vote, but learning more about it,” said Madison Lawson, one of the students involved.
O’Brien said students have to be at least 17 years old, and do not have to be registered voters to participate.
In fact, only one of the eight students is old enough to vote. Justin Shanahan said this is his first time casting a ballot, and he’s looking forward to getting a front-row view of the process.
“Yeah, it will be a learning experience in two ways for me. It’s kind of cool to have both of these experiences at the same time,” Shanahan said.
The students will be tasked with a variety of jobs, including checking people in, helping citizens use voting machines, and “just making sure things are running smoothly.”
Students are being asked to report at 5:30 a.m. and will work through the day until 9 p.m., they said. They will be stationed at different precincts in the city and Hancock County.
The students were trained last week on how to use the voting machines and what to expect on Election Day, they said.
Last spring, a different group of students involved with “We the People” rallied in front of the Hancock County Courthouse to protest low voter turnout, and that caught the attention of the elections board, O’Brien said. The rally led to a discussion about the possibility of having students work on Election Day, and Dickman pitched the idea to his students.
“I’m excited to have them involved. We need to get young people involved in the voting process,” O’Brien said.
The elections board will pay students about $130 each for participating in the training and working at the polls. The students will put the money toward a fund to help pay the expenses for state and national “We the People” competitions.
“So really, it’s like a double benefit for us. These competitions are expensive and funding them isn’t easy,” Lawson said.
Students said working the election will allow them to take some of what they have learned in the classroom and experience it in the “real world.”
“These decisions, especially Issue 2 and Issue 3, are going to be passed down to us. They are going to affect us. Even though we’re not voting this time, it will still have an impact on us,” Alexandria Tong said about the competing state issues related to the legalization of marijuana in Ohio. “I’m actually really curious to see if Issue 3 brings more young people out to vote. I sure hope so.”
Other students working the polls today include Franklin Russel, Jordan Tichenor, Kaitlyn Fillhart, Luke Taylor and Ben Templin.
Some of them said having a different perspective on the voting process will help them better understand the importance of voting.
“Getting that behind-the-scenes look isn’t something that everyone gets to have, and we get to have that while we’re still in high school,” Fillhart said.
If students have any down time during the day, homework is allowed, but they have been asked to leave the government books at home.
“They told us we can’t have any kind of government literature, books, homework, anything government-related with us to work on. So I guess we’ll work on something else. They told us we could knit, though,” Tichenor said with a laugh.
At that, Lawson excitedly chimed in.
“Hey, I have some yarn for you to borrow. Want me to bring it?”
“No, I think we’ll be kept plenty busy. It’s going to be cool to meet all of these people,” Tichenor said.
All of her classmates nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, just think about all of the people we’ll see. It’s going to be a good thing for us,” Russel said.