Reformers in the 20th century demanded a bipartisan administration to ensure that elections be more fair and allow for equal representation. According to Dr. Herb Smith of the Political Science Department, elections before that were “chaotic affairs.”
Dr. Smith explains that citizens started “policing elections” to ensure electoral stability. McDaniel students now have an opportunity to do just that.
The United States Election Assistance Commission has awarded McDaniel College a grant to train students as poll workers. The grant, which was organized by Dr. Deborah Johnson-Ross, also of the Political Science Department, was encouraged by John T. Willis, who supervised a similar grant awarded to the University of Baltimore in 2004.
According to Smith the grant awarded to Willis, who was an adjunct professor in our Economics and Business Administration Department when the school was called Western Maryland College, was one of the first of its kind awarded in Maryland, and inspired McDaniel’s involvement in the program.
For Johnson-Ross, inspiration comes in another form. “I was born just too late, literally a year or two too late, to march in the Civil Rights movement. For me, this is an opportunity to do my own part,” she explains.
She continues, “This is a great way for students to get involved in the political process. That fact that it’s nonpartisan is really key. It’s just a way to be involved.”
The grant was established as part of the Help America Vote College Program, and will allow up to 100 students to work in polls in both Carroll and Baltimore County. To be eligible, all students need is proof that they are registered to vote in Maryland.
Once chosen, students have a three hour training session conducted by the Carroll County Election Commission or the Baltimore County Election Commission, depending on their placement. During the training sessions, students will be “learning how the touch screen machines work, how to help voters use them, how to record citizens and how to allocate space,” says Smith.
In addition, they will be primed for any potential problems with the machines and will be shown how to open the polling centers the morning of Election Day.
On November 4th, students will head to their respective polling locations and work a 14-hour day, starting at 6:00 in the morning. While there, they will greet voters, check voter identification, demonstrate how to use the voting machines, and ensure that all registered voters are given the chance to vote.
Students will receive $25 for the training sessions. Additionally, students placed in Carroll County will receive $160 and those in Baltimore County will receive $162.50 for their work on Election Day.
“[Elections] are one unique thing about our political process, and when you’re there, you see how important it really is, and how individual citizens are really important to the process,” said Johnson-Ross.
Smith feels along the same lines, that “college students will bring a youthful vitality and energy.”
“Students are our future,” he says. Smiling, he adds, “I know it’s clich?, but it’s the reality. If the government is to endure, this generation has to continue the traditions and legacies of this country.”
Interested students can pick up an application and FAQ sheet in the Political Science Department’s office on the third floor of Hill Hall. Opportunities also exist for students interested in serving as interpreters, especially in Spanish. Students acting as interpreters do not need to be registered to vote in Maryland.
Please contact Dr. Johnson-Ross or any other member of the McDaniel Help America Vote Act team at firstname.lastname@example.org .