*photos taken pre-COVID
A new generation of election clerks is stepping forward to help run the machinery of democracy, and it includes Irving ISD students.
Thanks to a partnership between Irving High School and Dallas County Elections, students work as election clerks each election – general, primary, special and presidential.
From checking in voters and distributing ballots to explaining the use of voting equipment, placing directional signage at voting locations and setting up and taking down the voting machines, students wear many hats.
“Students get a first-hand look at our civic duty,” says Alicia Hinkle, US History and African-American Studies teacher at Irving High School. “They learn about the different forms of elections, that there is not always a presidential election. They learn about propositions or proposals on the ballot and how simple the voting process is …
“Each year, the students also spread the word to not only their family, but to their friends and classmates about the importance of voting.”
Hinkle and Dr. Craig Young, now dean of students at Nimitz High School, established the student election clerk program at Irving High four years ago. Since then, more than 300 students have participated.
“Irving High School students have helped us tremendously,” says Matthew Fairchild, student program and outreach clerk for Dallas County Elections. “With other schools, we do not have a program like with Irving. Irving High School has definitely stepped up and helped us.”
This year, 19 Irving High students have applied, received the necessary training (a two-hour course offered virtually) and have been placed at a location to serve as a clerk on Election Day.
On Election Day, clerks report to their polling location by 6 AM and work at least 12 hours, with breaks and meals. Students can earn up to $16 an hour as well as receive community service hours and an excused absence to serve in this role.
“I signed up to be an election clerk mainly because I was curious on how the voting process works, and on top of that I’d be getting paid for learning,” says Irving High student Ezequiel Cordova. “Advice I’d give to someone is to simply just do it! Even if you can’t vote, you realize how easy the process is and it encourages you actually vote once you’re of age.”
COVID-19 measures such as providing rubber gloves, face masks, face shields, disinfectant wipes and sanitizer are taken. In addition, plexiglass barriers will be installed, and a specialized company is contracted to sanitize every Dallas County polling location before Election Day.
“There is such a push to recruit students because the more elderly population is more at-risk,” says Hinkle. “Plus, students are extremely tech savvy.”