Election Polls: COVID-19 Restrictions & Student Volunteers

Juliana Flores

This year, COVID-19 limited the elderly to participate in working the election polls and students took the leap and volunteered.

Los Angeles County allowed students over the age of 16 to participate in working the 2020 polls. This allowed the younger generation to engage in working for an election as controversial as the one everyone faced this year. They may not be able to vote, but they were able to work the polls. 

Usually, the most common workers during the election are the elderly, but due to COVID-19, they are one of the most vulnerable and probable groups of contracting the virus meaning they were less likely to work the polls. Working the polls was still a risk for high school students since there is a pandemic occurring.

At Da Vinci, students above the age of 16 were allowed to and encouraged to apply to become poll workers. Steven Covelman, the 11th grade U.S. History teacher, was in charge of spreading the word and emailing students their applications. 

“This will allow students to see like, ‘Hey, like there’s a lot of different ways that I can contribute, it could be through voting,” said Covelman. “Or It could just be through volunteering.”

Student workers were required to take online training courses and a two-hour in-person class. With new restrictions, social distancing and masks were required. If one was working in the check-in area, clerks were required to wear both a mask and a face shield. There were often sanitizing surfaces and screens. 

Students were paid $380 for working two early voting days and on election day. The extra $80 was for taking the training classes and the online classes. It took up a lot of time; on top of school work, as it was a total of 5 hours for training. 

The younger demographic is not allowed to vote but still had this opportunity to contribute during an election as important as this one. It makes them feel empowered and as if they were involved with this election.

“I had at least 40 or 50 so students who reached out and were interested, which I think was awesome,” said Covelman. “I’m really proud of the students for taking that initiative and really wanting to do this job.”

Throughout the voting process, there were different roles that election workers could choose from. There were line monitors, check-in clerks, voting area monitors, and provisional clerks. Juliana Roman, junior at Da Vinci Communications and Vitruvian Post reporter, worked as an election worker the weekend of October 24 and 25 at the Forum. She worked as a check-in clerk; this position held the responsibility of checking in the voter and giving them their ballot. 

“I felt a huge weight on me because I was thinking if I did this wrong then they can’t vote and if they can’t vote that’s a huge thing’ because this is a really important election,” said Roman.

It was a big responsibility being a check-in clerk because you had to issue the voter their ballot and if one messes up the ballot, the other person can’t vote. The ballot determines the rest of their voting process, one error could’ve messed up their whole vote if the barcode was not printed correctly. 

“I felt very overwhelmed, but then after the second day, I just really got used to it,” said Roman.

 

The pressure on students was high. For some, it was their first job experience and due to COVID-19, the expectations were higher. Having to deal with making sure that they sanitized after each person and that everyone was wearing a mask. However, there were moments where their stress was slightly relieved as Juliana’s election polls was a hotspot for famous people. 

“Yeah so on Saturday, Snoop Dogg came,” said Roman. “You would expect someone like a celebrity to come and vote… because it was at the Forum.”

Not only did the barcode determine their vote being counted, but a voter casting their ballot correctly. Compared to last year, there was a new system for casting a ballot. Originally, a voter takes their ballot to a box to cast it. This year and from the March elections, it’s different.

With the new system, comes a new machine, the BMD. BMD stands for Ballot Marking Device which is where the machine casts the ballot instead of taking it to the box. Christian Salas, another student, worked as a voting area monitor this past weekend at Del Aire Park. He helped voters with the BMD, answered any questions they had about the new machine, and with casting their ballot.

“Right now, as teens and with our current political climate, you know, I do think and believe that many more young people, or middle age, everyone should be actively participating in our democracy,” said Salas.

The experience of working during the elections changes the perspective of a teen. One realizes the importance of voting. Anyone who is able to vote needs to go out and vote. Gen-Z is a powerful generation that is willing to change the world for the better. If they could not participate, they had the chance to work it. 

“[Participating in voting] is what makes us, the US, people participate in their civic duty,” said Salas.  “And if we don’t do that, this country is going to fall into chaos.”