Campus: CSU Long Beach -- November 04, 2002

Cal State Long Beach, Los Angeles County Registrar's Office Create Pollworker Program to Increase Diminishing Number of Election Day Volunteers

When the polls open on Election Day this Tuesday, Nov. 5, more than 200 civic-minded students from California State University, Long Beach will be on hand in precincts around Los Angeles and Orange counties as part of the newly created College Pollworker Program.

A first-time partnership effort between a CSU campus and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Office, the College Pollworker Program was designed to replenish a rapidly diminishing “pool” of individuals who work as pollworkers on Election Day.

The brainchild of California State Senator Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), the program used Cal State Long Beach as the “pilot campus” for its first year, but it is Karnette’s hope and intention that the program will be duplicated at every college in the state.

“Every county in the state is facing a critical shortage of qualified volunteers to serve at the polls on Election Day,” said Karnette, whose 27th District includes Long Beach. “Attracting new workers and retaining the old ones is more difficult than ever, but the College Pollworker Program could single-handedly alter the situation because it is a virtually untapped resource.”
During the first week of fall classes in September, university and L.A. County Registrar officials visited Cal State Long Beach students enrolled in the university’s Political Science 100 courses.
Officials, however, knew they needed to offer students a special incentive. They didn’t believe the $80 paid to pollworkers who work a 14-hour plus day and attend a pre-election 90-minute training session was enough for students to miss a day of classes, a part-time job or their free time. So, campus officials made it possible for students to earn community service points toward graduation and extra credit for their class.

From those initial meetings, more than 280 students applied for the program, and according to Katie Mac, student pollworker coordinator for the L.A. County Registrar, some 200 students have been placed at voting sites for Tuesday, and another 30 applications were sent on to the Orange County Registrar (pollworkers must be registered in the county in which they serve).
“College students make great pollworkers,” said Charles Noble, chair of the CSULB Political Science Department and campus organizer for the program. “They are enthusiastic, computer savvy, retain information quickly, and many are bilingual, which is a plus in assisting limited English-proficient voters on Election Day.”

Among those students taking part in the first-year effort is sophomore social work major Isela Magallanes of Long Beach , who will be working the polls at McKinley Elementary School in Long Beach.

“I think it is a great opportunity for young people, especially those in college, to get to know what the political system is like,” Magallanes said. “We have to stop sitting back, and we need to get more involved if we’re going to have a better future for ourselves and for those who come after us.”

Also participating in the program is junior criminal justice major Lorenzo Uribe, who will be working a polling site at a church in Downey. Uribe said there are a lot of people out there who believe that young adults aren’t interested and don’t care about politics and voting. “One way to change that perception,” said the 20-year-old Downey resident, “is by showing young people involved in the process.”

The college pollworkers will assist with opening the polls, check in voters, distribute ballots, demonstrate how the voting machine works and assist with closing the polls.

Media Contacts: Rick Gloady, 562/985-5454 - Shayne Schroeder, 562/985-1727

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