AP Government Students Serve as Pollworkers for Midterm Elections

Oscar Flores, Copy Editor

As part of a project report for the class, select AP Government students participated as clerks for the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Students chosen to volunteer on election day were given a specific polling place and were required to attend training before they worked the polls.


Training days began on Oct. 5, with the last class being two days before the elections on Nov. 4.  In that time span, volunteers were required to attend one of the days in order to learn the responsibilities of a clerk.  Members of the Los Angeles County Office taught volunteers how to find and take the attendance of registered voters, give them their ballots, and issue them a provisional voting slip if they were at the wrong precinct or were missing their mail-in ballot.


Taking on different jobs throughout the day took a toll on clerks, especially as the day progressed and voters flocked to the polls after the work day ended.  Acting as the provisional votes clerk at the Christ Lutheran Church, Jose Cisneros, 12, experienced both moments of stress and relief on election day.


“Throughout the day, I definitely felt exhausted, but I felt I was doing a good job, thus expediting the voting process, so people could get back home or to work as soon as possible,” Cisneros stated.  “As for after everyone finished, I felt relief, and proud of the work I did, efficiently helping over 300 voters play their part in the election process.”


Clerks arrived to their assigned location at 6 a.m. and set up the equipment necessary for the day.  Afterwards, doors to the precincts opened at 7am and closed promptly at 8 p.m., but the night continued as volunteers were required to count all the ballots before they left home.  For some precincts like the one at Christ Lutheran Church, this task ended at 10:30 p.m., while for others such as Sussman Middle School, it ended around 9:30 p.m..


A fifteen to sixteen hour work day left a negative impression on some clerks, as it did for senior Kathleen Chavez.


“My experience as a poll worker – I felt that I was doing several different jobs that I shouldn’t have been doing. Personally at my precinct it was unorganized from the time the doors opened until the time the doors closed. I carried on various roles including some of the inspectors roles,” Chavez said.  “Throughout the day I was counting down the minutes until we got out and once we did, I was thrilled that I was able to relieve myself of the chaos.”


The following day on Nov. 7, Mr. Nevarez encouraged his students to discuss their experience as it pertained to Unit 2 of the AP Government curriculum, which revolves around Congress and the electoral process.


Students like Ninfa Penaloza, 12, described the importance of the voting system and how it felt to see and participate in it first-hand compared to viewing it as a bystander.


“I think it’s important to vote because, like statistics prove, a lot of elder people vote and I hardly saw any young people, therefore we’re allowing an older generation to choose certain laws that may affect us in the long run because our generation has a whole different perspective on certain issues,” Penaloza stated.  “It was really cool seeing everything we talked about in AP Gov. and I was able to talk to the other clerk workers about what we were doing. I also knew how it all gets contributed to how one gets elected.”


Now that election day has passed, students are required to write a two-page research report detailing their experience as a clerk; for those that were not selected to participate in Los Angeles’s student pollworker program, they are given two options for the research paper: attend a Downey City Council meeting or research a member of Congress.  Their report is due on Dec. 16 and will serve as the conclusion to Nevarez’s first-semester AP Government class.