Voting is fundamental to democracy. Free and fair elections allow citizens to express their collective will and decide the direction of their country. While candidates and issues may dominate headlines leading up to election day, poll workers are the people on the ground ensuring a smooth electoral process. In his quest for genuine civic engagement, Seth Smith, academic success coordinator, Athletics, became a voting location manager for the Franklin County Board of Elections in 2020.
“Poll workers are the stewards of democracy. It’s regular folks making sure that elections are safe and secure. They do it because they believe it’s right. It’s really positive and one of those rare restore-faith-in-humanity moments,” said Smith. “In a very polarizing political country and world, you get a day where you just want everything to run smoothly. By law, there needs to be a mix of political party representation in every establishment. So, people who may not get along politically really do put that aside in order to run what I have often referred to as a flash culture.”
An estimated 1 million poll workers are needed for the upcoming November 2023 election cycle. In 2020, there was a 20 percent reduction of polling locations for the November election, and that number could grow as the need for poll workers rises and the demand is not met.
“I’ve been a voting location manager for a precinct location, by what is now an abandoned steel foundry, and it had less than 100 people vote at it in the most recent election,” said Smith. “If we don’t get enough election administrators, if not enough people volunteer, one of the only options is to reduce polling locations. Then everybody drives farther, everybody waits longer, and some people will choose to not vote. Anything we can do to avoid that situation is amazing.”
As a voting location manager and an academic success coordinator at Capital, Smith would like to see more students volunteer on Election Day.
“I come across a lot of students who are working on their resumes. They’re still so young, so they haven’t done a ton. Doing something like election administration, which sounds really cool, is a resume builder,” said Smith. “It’s an early in into county-level jobs. It’s a way to actually show that you’re civic-minded and committed to your committee.”
Capital’s voter registration and education efforts have been placed above the national average. By November 2022, Capital was ranked eighth out of 183 schools in campus members taking the pledge to vote. The university has also been nationally recognized as a “Gold” campus, one that achieved between 70 and 79 percent voter participation on campus.
“Regarding voting and civic engagement, one of the most important ways to be a catalyst for positive societal change is to utilize our right to vote. Some may say one vote does not make a difference, but one person and their vote can,” said Tristen Davis, associate director, Student and Community Engagement. “At Capital University, we want our campus members to be lifelong voters. We want students to be invested in civic action and duty, advocate for social justice, and promote political and social equality.”
National Voter Education Week (Oct. 2-6, 2023) aims to educate people on how to vote, why it’s important, and how to combat voter suppression tactics. Capital’s community partners include the League of Women Voters and the Franklin County Board of Elections.
“We are only a few generations into the idea that every American has the right to vote. Many of our students had either grandparents or great-grandparents who didn’t qualify to vote,” said Smith. “While I lean strongly towards one political party, doing something that requires me to work with people from opposing political parties appeals to me. We don’t have significant enough disagreements that we can’t make it through the day. It’s very humanizing.”
Get registered to vote at Capital, https://vote.civicnation.org/register/allintovote_capitaluniversity/.
Students are encouraged to Take the Pledge, https://allintovote.org/take-the-pledge/.
To learn more about how to become a poll worker, visit https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/poll-workers/.