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Student Poll Workers Contributing to 'Future of Our Democracy'

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By Tom Evelyn and Sam Gardner

Bucking the myth that young people don't care about politics, more than 100 UCF andValenciaCommunity College students will staff voting stations in Orange County Tuesday to help their fellow citizens cast ballots.

UCF andValencia worked with the Supervisor of Elections Office to recruit student poll workers as part of a grant awarded to UCF's Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government. Students were recruited through presentations to political science classes and other outreach efforts. In addition, UCF Public Administration students will staff the UCF Arena voting precinct as part of the Supervisor of Elections' adopt-a-precinct program.

"It's important to get the students involved in the process because they are the future for our democracy," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

Cowles added that students also are familiar with new technology, which helps with the use of touch-screen voting machines and will be beneficial if the elections office decides to start using computers to check voters in at the polls.

According to a U.S. Elections Assistance Commission students who have an intimate experience in the electoral process tend to stay involved after they graduate, something experts say is critical to the future of the country. That's why the university participated in the project.

Timothy Dunaway, a UCF political science major, will work the polls for the first time Tuesday.

"It has been really easy to become involved in the process, and it has stirred up some community pride," he said.

For the Public Administration group, Patricia Harris, a graduate student studying Nonprofit Management, will be the precinct clerk at the UCF Arena. She has worked several elections in the past.

"I get to see how the process works from a poll worker's standpoint," Harris said.  "I'm also curious to see how many people come and vote and what kind of people they are."

Undergraduate and graduate students of all majors were eligible to participate, and they will receive excused absences for their classes on Election Day. Like other poll workers, participating students attended an orientation session and a three-hour training session before Tuesday.

Students will be paid between $120 and $190, depending on their job assignment, for working from6 a.m. to9 p.m.

According to Harris, however, working the polls is not about the money, but more about an interest in people and a motivation to learn.

She also said she wishes more students were concerned about what is happening in the world of politics.

"I'd like to see more students find out about what's on the ballot and what's going on in their area," Harris said. "More students need to get out and vote."

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