Students to Train as Election Day Judges


October 8, 2008

College students are in great demand this election season, and not just because candidates desperately want their votes. Students are also needed to help supervise the use of voting machines on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4. Maryville University will assist in this effort by serving as a key election judge training site.

The St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners will train students and other interested individuals on the use and supervision of touch screen voting machines beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 27, in the President’s Conference Center, located in Gander Hall on Maryville’s main campus. Participants will be certified to work at polling centers throughout St. Louis County as assistant supervisors. Training is free; compensation is $40 for the training session and $115 for Election Day work. The work day begins at 5 a.m. and ends after 7 p.m., when the polls close.

Eric Fey, poll worker coordinator for the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, said the county needs 5,000 workers for this year’s presidential election – 1,500 more than usual.

“There is a real shortage of poll workers,” Fey said. “Recent history shows that it’s always a struggle for us to find enough people and it takes a huge expenditure of time, money and effort. This election, we anticipate a heavy voter turnout.”

This year marks the first time students and interested others will train at Maryville using the voting machines, which are “new” as of August 2006. In fact, Maryville’s campus is the only off-site location to receive such training, Fey said. Because of the logistics of moving cumbersome, heavy voting machines, most assistant supervisory training is done at commission offices, he said.

The election board is pleased to have the opportunity to train Maryville students, Fey said, noting that the technological abilities of young people make them perfect candidates for polling place jobs.

“The value in being able to have college students work the polls is that they are computer-acclimated and easily understand the technology of touch screens,” Fey said. “We also use palm pilots to access registered voter data. When folks come into the wrong polling place or they’re not listed in the precinct binder, those questions can be answered using the data base. That eliminates a lot of call volume into our headquarters.”

The training session at Maryville University comes at the invitation of Marshall King, Ph.D., professor of political science. Several elections ago, King heard a radio report on the shortage of poll workers. He called the election board to suggest Maryville as a training site; because he guaranteed a certain number of student participants, the election commission accepted the offer.

“I’m always looking for something relevant in the real world for my students to do for credit,” King said. Students in his seminar course on the 2008 election this semester are required to attend the election judge training.

“The training gives students some appreciation of what it’s like to deal with questions about the voting process,” King said. “For example, how far can a judge go in helping disabled voters? Can a judge enter the voting booth to help someone, or help a voter out of the car? I want students to meet voters, some who may not see or hear so well. Once they meet them and talk to them, my students will find out there are legitimate questions about the voting process,” he said.

Maryville students who are registered voters anywhere in Missouri are eligible to work the St. Louis County polling stations after attending the training session.

Maryville is a partner in the election commission’s “At Work for Democracy” program. Participating companies and institutions are acknowledged for encouraging employees and students to serve as poll workers.

Contact: Laura Smith at 314-529-6520 or lsmith@maryville.edu


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