The Student Poll Worker Program

Something All High School Teachers Should Know About

High school teachers — the November presidential election is just around the corner! What better time to help your students learn about the American election process up close and personal.

One simple and meaningful way is to inform your students about the Student Poll Worker Program.

This non-partisan and highly-engaging program allows eligible high school students to:

  • Set up and otherwise open the polling place
  • Assist voters
  • Close the polling place
  • Count ballots
  • Provide much needed support at polling place locations

From this experience, student poll workers learn firsthand how elections are run, the importance of voting, and the vital role poll workers play in making our elections operate smoothly.

In addition to the learning that takes place, student poll workers can be paid a stipend that generally ranges between $65 and $150, depending on the county.

To serve as a high school poll worker, a student must typically:

  • Be a United States citizen or permanent legal resident
  • Be at least 16 years old on Election Day
  • Attend a public or private high school
  • Have at least a 2.5 grade point average
  • Get parent and teacher permission
  • Attend a training session
Typical Poll Worker Training Session

The Student Poll Worker Program currently operates in 33 states and Washington, DC. and to encourage high school students to serve as poll workers in California, where I teach, the office of the California Secretary of State has produced a Student Poll Worker Recruitment Brochure.

The office has also produced a Student Poll Worker Program Packet, which describes the program in much greater detail and tells students how to apply.

Over the years, I have had many students “work the polls.” It’s always a delight to hear them enthusiastically describe their experience in class the next day. Overall, they truly seem to find great value in the experience, despite the 15-hour day. Spoiler alert: the term of service on Election Day begins at 6:00am and runs until approximately 9:30pm on what is often a cold day…even here in southern California.

I only wish I had directed my students over the years to describe their experience in writing so that I could now share. I will be sure to do so with the November election, then add to the bottom of this article.

Sidenote: I have one student this year, who will not only work the November election, but worked the primaries as well . . . with his mother. I can not even begin to describe in words what a great experience this was for him and how badly he wanted to share it all with the class the following day. Below, I’ve included a photograph of this young man working the California Primary polls this past June 6. Don’t let the beard and hat fool you. He’s a senior.

SMHS Senior Working the Primary Election Polls

The program can not only prove of great value to the students who work the polls, but it can also prove of great value to the adults who work alongside and/or otherwise oversee the students’ work.

Closing note: Teacher Coordinators receive $100 for recruiting students and an additional $25 for attending training (optional).

— — -

SMHS seniors Eric Sang and Amber Yim after Student Poll Worker Training Session
SMHS Senior at Student Poll Worker Training Session
Student Poll Worker / Credit: Mikva Challenge
Student Poll Worker / Credit: Mikva Challenge
SMHS Student Poll Worker
SMHS Student Poll Worker at End of Day
SMHS Student Poll Workers the Day After
SMHS Student After Having Voted For First Time

The overall experience of being a Pollworker was great. It was my first time volunteering in any community work, and I loved it. Working together with people was very easy especially since the people in my group helped each other out and worked as a team. I had no problem working the many hours since I knew it would only be for one day. I had very high hopes for this day and thought it would be fun. It actually turned out to be true. I defiantly had fun helping people fulfill their right to vote. I would love to work in the future as a Pollworker again!”
* Jesus Godinez, Senior, Edward R. Royal Learning Center


“As a Constitutionally Conservative Republican, I believe that students
should be encouraged to engage in the American political and electoral process whenever possible. For this reason, I gladly served as a poll worker during the California primary in March of 2016. Students who do what I did will be sure to gain a far greater appreciation of the voting and electing process and thereby not take for granted the US Constitution.”
* Sayuzhdri Sarrafpour, Senior, San Marino High School


“I personally enjoyed the experience though the 16 hour day, boredom, and paltry pay convinced me — once was enough. So no, I would not do it again.

Yet I would recommend that other high school students do it.

Working the poll forces you to learn about the America political process and this is a good thing, for if you do not understand the process then you cannot protect it. It is the duty of every citizen to help preserve the ideals of America and part of that is keeping her politicians honest. And you keep them honest by watching them, understanding them, and preventing them from becoming corrupt. Working the polls helps you to do that.”
* Noah Wilson, Senior, San Marino High School

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