Votelessly devoted: Perspectives from a student election judge

Election+judging+encouraged+me+to+spend+the+day+with+a+big+smile+on+my+face.+

Catherine Hewawissa

Election judging encouraged me to spend the day with a big smile on my face.

Being 17 during an election year is the worst, truly. I’m not sure what’s worse though: being old enough to comprehend the magnitude of a vote but falling just months short of being able to contribute to it or watching as my peers get a chance to vote because they missed the age cutoff back in kindergarten. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that I was exactly 207 days too young to vote in the 2022 midterm election.

So, I signed up to be a student election judge. Not for the early morning start, the enticing 15-hour shift, the prospect of dealing with the general public or the $250 compensation, but to learn more about what happens behind the scenes in an election and to help prepare myself for when I’m old enough to cast my own ballot.

My day started at 5 a.m. when the other judges and I arrived at the polling place to set up the equipment including printers, iPads for voter check-in, and the scantron-like machine at the ballot box. Every task throughout the setup required at least two judges with bipartisan representation. After we were done setting up the equipment, I was assigned arguably the most important job of all: ripping the stickers. Voters began to line up outside the door, counting down the minutes until 6 a.m., when the polls were to open.

Catherine Hewawissa

As the day went on, neighbor after neighbor filed in for a chance to voice their opinions. Basically, I had to tell my parents that A LOT of people send their love. I found myself enjoying small interactions with the community. One of my favorite moments was the 888th voter casting her ballot, me joking that she should buy a lottery ticket followed by her, ten minutes later, running back into the gym, excited to show me the number 8 on the PowerBall ticket she just bought.

Junior Gianna Caponigro also volunteered as an election judge to help her community and learn more about the voting process. She was excited to share what she took away from the experience.

“Honestly, it helped me understand the election process so much more than I knew before. I feel a lot more prepared to vote when I do turn 18,” Caponigro said.

While there are many posts to work at as the day goes on, I spent the majority of my day at the ballot box assisting voters in turning in their ballots and, perhaps most importantly, handing out the coveted “I Voted” stickers. Elections are great and all, but I swear the true fuel for democracy lies within those stickers.

Standing at the ballot box, I got to observe and experience what voting meant to people from different walks of life. From hearing an 18-year-old mumble “OMG, I just voted,” after casting her ballot to hearing a 97-year-old holler “AMEN, I VOTED” as she shaded in the last box on the paper, it was a pretty cool experience.

Senior Benjamin Paladino was thrilled to vote for the first time in the 2022 midterm, but two years ago, when he couldn’t vote in the presidential election, he decided to be an election judge.

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I have always had a love for politics and law; it’s what I want to pursue when I’m older. I really wanted to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote because it is one of our sacred duties as American citizens,”

— Benjamin Paladino

Overall, being a student election judge taught me a lot. Long hours aside, the job wasn’t all that demanding and it was a productive and exciting way to spend my day off. I strongly encourage anyone interested to sign up to help with the next election, as it is a way to get involved with your community while learning more about how our democracy works.