Start them young

Published 7:14 pm Thursday, September 8, 2016

Want to get young people involved in the voting process? Then get them involved early — even before they are eligible to vote.

The Beaufort County Board of Elections plans to renew the use of student election assistants in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election. The board will ask interested high school students who are at least 17 years old to submit applications, which will require their parents’ signatures and the signatures of their respective principals. Selected students would be excused from school on Election Day. Ideally, the board would like to post a student election assistant at each of the 21 precinct polling places in the county. If more than 21 qualified students apply, the board would determine which students get to work at the polling places. Each student elections assistant would be paid $150.

“The Student Election Assistant program affords qualified students the opportunity to play a direct role in the elections process while also building out their resumes and college application portfolios and potentially earning community service hours,” reads the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.

Serving as a student elections assistant would provide the assistant with exposure to the voting process, allowing them to assist voters and adult poll workers. The assistants would gain insight into one of the most basic rights of American citizens — having a say in who will help govern at the local, state and national levels.

“That year we used them, boy, they went over. People love student election assistants,” said Kellie Harris Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director, to the board during its meeting Tuesday.

“I like that because if anybody can work the computers it’s those 17-year-olds because they’re (schools) teaching them how to do that all the time. …It’s nice to see a young person involved when you get my age,” said board member Tom Payne.

Board chairman Jay McRoy said his grandson, a senior at Southside High School, and other qualified students would benefit in several ways by working as student election assistants. Hopkins said the board would try to place the students in their home precincts.

Being exposed to the voting process at a young age likely would result in those student elections assistants growing up to become informed, active voters. That’s a good thing.