December 16, 2015


In part one of our recruitment series, we took a look at tactics to attract qualified poll workers for Election Day. In today’s conclusion we will look at the use of high school and college aged students as poll workers. 

After the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, Congress looked to the EAC to develop College Recruitment Programs. These programs were intended to educate and attract younger poll workers that could easily operate the new HAVA compliant voting systems in America. In 2007, the EAC developed a guidebook for recruiting student poll workers and many states passed laws allowing people as young as 15 to work on Election Day. Many programs were implemented and case studies were conducted, some of which we will examine later in this post.

The second part of our recruitment series will be divided into three sections:

  • why college students and “young people” make great temporary poll workers
  • past programs aimed to recruit student poll workers and their findings
  • good strategies to use for recruitment of these individuals



Why Students:

High school and college aged students are uniquely qualified for the role of poll worker in the 21st Century. Having grown up around technology for most if not all of their life, they can quickly be trained on how to operate poll books or tabulators. Their comfort with technology can also help with troubleshooting and problem solving for minor technical difficulties during Election Day.

As they are still in school, they are essentially in learning mode: able to quickly learn about election procedures and laws they must adhere to. They are also used to “long” days as many college schedules include days filled with classes or part time jobs. On the flip side: many students have flexible schedules depending on their major that will allow them to work a full Election Day.

Past student poll worker programs and their success:

Chicago: Branded as Student Leaders in Elections the Chicago program recruited college students to work in three elections from 2014 to 2015. It was one of the largest college poll worker programs with over 1,500 students serving as election judges as Chicago refers to poll workers. Some of the key finding the program found were:

  • Face-to-face recruitment was no better or worse than email communication when trying to reach a large number of students
  • More than 50% of community college students served in a second election
  • The percentage of Spanish-speaking students who served in all three elections was nine points higher than that of other students
  • 73% of the students who served in two elections went on to serve in a third election

Evaluating the Student Leaders in Elections program found that college students improved election efficiency by helping transmit results faster. Precincts with two students present transmitted results 9-12 minutes faster than precincts without a student presence. Students also eliminated the need for back-up poll workers due to their willingness to work outside their home precincts.


Citizens United Foundation*: In 2006 Citizens United Foundation (CUF) received a grant from the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) to recruit poll workers between the ages of 18-24. They successfully recruited 1,326 college aged students for poll work. They created a recruitment strategy that incorporated internet recruitment, traditional outreach and partnerships with academic institutions. By using their website, online poll worker applications, postings and online social networks online recruiting was their most successful method among 18-24 year olds. About 42% of their applications in this age group came from

*Example taken from League of Women Voters New York | Recruiting College-Age Poll Workers


Smaller programs**: Many other programs have been conducted around student poll worker recruitment including:

Alaska’s Student Election Assistant Program- appoints students 16 or older as youth vote ambassadors, offering training programs and compensation to participants

Missouri Youth Election Program- allows students aged 15-17 to participate on Election Day, aiding the election officials and poll workers.

Franklin County, Ohio partnered with Kids Voting Central Ohio to promote high school seniors serving as poll workers. Seniors in good academic standing, 17 years or older could participate on Election Day with the permission of their school district, parents and teachers.

**Examples taken from | Millions to the Polls: Poll workers recruitment & training


How will you attract them?

The EAC’s Guidebook for Recruiting College Poll Workers offers many strategies to engage this demographic. Of them the most successful seem to be online recruitment, academic partnerships and minority/ bilingual student recruitment.

Online recruitment: The internet is a great recruitment space to target the student demographic. Few in this age group go a day without checking something online or interacting on social media. A good first step would be to make sure your website is easy to navigate. Create an online poll worker application and place a link to it on your homepage in a prominent area.

Utilize social media to post about poll worker openings and the benefits associated. Social media is also a good place for referrals – as previous poll workers to post about their experience working on Election Day, encouraging their family or friends to apply as well. You can also take out an ad on Facebook or Twitter to gain more traction; as you often only pay when interested parties click on your ad, this can also be very economical. Job sites like Monster or sites like Craigslist can also be a good place to post about poll worker openings. 

Academic partnerships: Creating a partnership with local academic institutions can help recruit a larger pool of qualified students for poll work. It also has the advantage of a “never-ending” recruitment pool – every year new students enroll who could be eligible for poll work! Do some research to identify a good individual at the university/college/high school to approach with your proposal, an administrator, president or dean would be a good start. 

Explain why a student poll worker program could be beneficial and once you’ve received support from the appropriate decision makers, begin connecting with the individual(s) who will be directly partnering with your office. Often times this will be someone in the political science or civics department. These people will facilitate communication between the elections office and the school, often spearheading most of the face-to-face interactions with students. 

Minority/Bilingual student recruitment: As mentioned previously, many minority and bilingual students engage in poll work more consistently and over longer periods of time when recruited. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires jurisdictions to make language assistance available, bilingual students make the perfect translators and poll workers in heterogeneous jurisdictions (multiple ethnicities and languages present). Let these students know you value the contributions they can make during the recruitment process.

Local organizations, neighborhood associations or groups that serve minority populations are a good place to start your recruitment efforts. Many members of these organizations already volunteer their time and would be willing to further assist their neighbors on Election Day, given the opportunity. Another avenue would be student groups that represent minority or bilingual students on local campuses. Many campuses have multicultural Greek organizations (NPHC and NMGC) whose members advocate for more civic engagement among minority populations, making them great candidates for poll work. 

Another consideration for this specialized recruitment program would be ensuring student poll workers commitment on Election Day. Many students will show up as they understand poll workers receive monetary compensation for their service. Consider asking professors to offer class credit for Election Day participation, which could further incentivize many students.

Incorporating programs that focus on students within your current poll worker recruitment can yield many positive results. Young people are technological savvy and many can help bridge the gap between an elections office and its community. They should definitely be a consideration if your jurisdiction contains a local college or high school – possibly leading these students on the path to higher civic engagement.