Election Week: Rise of the Youth
In honor of Tuesday’s presidential primaries here in Missouri, I’ll be running a bit of a series this week related to the trials and tribulations of Missouri’s electoral system. However, before we get into that (and while I still have hope for the process of democracy) I thought I’d lead off with something that ripped away my case of the Mondays.
The front page of the Post-Dispatch today featured a story on how Missouri is allowing high school juniors and seniors as young as 16 years old to act as election officials in the coming elections. Suddenly, polling places at local high schools that used to only be manned by retirees will now be joined by students not old enough to vote themselves. The reason for this change is as much about democracy as it is about technology (emphasis added):
The program is more than just a feel-good civics lesson. The county is
equipping each of the teens with $290 hand-held computers Palm Pilots
? that are designed to eliminate snags in the voting process.
"I have to say, we recruited these kids for our own selfish benefit,"
said Dick Bauer, an assistant director at the St. Louis County Election
Board. "We really need their help."
Not only will this action bring more young people (that famously apathetic group thats seems to grow closer and closer to the door of relevance) into the realm of electoral politics, the young people themselves will give back tenfold with their technological prowess. One often overlooked fact in the criticism of electronic voting machines (and other new voting advances) is that the traditionally elderly election officials who must operate and maintain the machinery are woefully inept at working the technology. Some may cry foul at the thought of a 17-year-old with a Palm Pilot checking their registration. I, however, say bravo! If not for efficiency’s sake, than at least for this:
The Palm Pilots used in St. Louis County will have information on every registered voter in the county.
They are designed to save poll workers the time and trouble of paging
through paper volumes to verify registrations in cases involving voters
who have moved to a new address without notifying officials, or people
who have not voted in many years.
As I’ll discuss later in the series, one of the major problems plaguing Missouri elections is the difficulties voters have in switching polling places, or being placed on inactive voter lists. It sounds like, with this new technology, these are problems that can be overcome.
Good work, Board of Elections.