News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 8, 2012

Vermillion polls to receive an infusion of youth

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It’s an historic election day today in Vermillion County.

For the first time in most peoples’ memories, the Republican Party is managing the county’s polling places for today’s election – a result of winning more votes in the 2010 Indiana Secretary of State election within the county.

And that’s not the only history-making element of today’s balloting. Vermillion County is also becoming probably the first county in Indiana to have a high school student poll worker stationed at every polling site.

“As far as I know, it’s unprecedented,” said Dale Simmons, co-general counsel at the Indiana Election Division in Indianapolis.

The U.S. Help America Vote Act of 2002 encouraged states to use 16- and 17-year-old high school students as election day poll workers. The program, called Election Day Live, is still not very widely used in Indiana.

However, it could help Hoosier counties deal with an emerging national crisis in staffing polling sites.

“We’re losing a generation of poll workers,” Simmons said. “This is just a way to get some young people involved.”

Republicans and Democrats always have worked the polling sites in Vermillion County. But, because they are managing the sites this year, Republicans need one extra worker at each place. That means finding 17 additional poll workers, Yocum said.

“Student workers helped fill the void,” said Tim Yocum, chairman of the Vermillion County Republican Party. “It has worked out just right.”

While the Vermillion County GOP launched Election Day Live in the county, North and South Vermillion High Schools did the work of selecting the students, Yocum said.

“We had no role in the decisions,” Yocum said, adding the students must have at least a B average and were not chosen on partisan grounds. “The schools know their students,” he said.

This is about the fourth year Vermillion County’s GOP has placed student workers at the polling sites. Brittani Wright, a senior at South Vermillion, was a high school poll worker last year and volunteered again this year as an 18-year-old. She’ll be an inspector – essentially giving her responsibility for her polling place.

“I just kind of wanted to prove that students are just as capable of doing the important roles,” Wright said Monday, adding that she plans to study law and perhaps someday enter politics. She served as a polling place sheriff last year out of a desire to see how things work on election day, she said.

“It was definitely a positive experience for me,” Wright said. “I really had no idea how official voting was done.”

Florinda Pruitt, Vermillion County clerk, said the more-than 17 high school-age poll workers did fine in their training classes. In fact, Pruitt believes the students may have an easier time adapting to the county’s new electronic voting machines than some of the older polling place workers.

“We think it’s a very valuable educational experience for our students,” said Barbara Payton, principal of South Vermillion. “It’s good for our students to volunteer in our community and be seen in a positive way in the community … I’m just excited about having our students involved in the process.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.



What to know

• The 2012 Indiana Primary Election is today, May 8. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.

• Hoosier voters can ask for either a Democrat Party ballot or a Republican Party ballot.

• Indiana law requires voters to show a photo ID.

• BMV license branches will be open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. today to issue state ID cards and driver’s licenses for use when voting.



Resources

• Vigo County Democrat and Republican ballots can be viewed online at www.vigocounty.in.gov.

• The Vigo County Clerk’s office can be reached at (812) 462-3235.

• More information is available at www.indianavoters.com and www.in.gov/sos/elections.