Chicago teens train to be election judges

January 21, 2008 12:44:06 PM PST
More young people are getting involved in the voting process in Chicago. High school students are being trained to serve as election judges for the Illinois primary on February 5.

A large group of the over 1,800 Chicago high schools students slated to be student election judges are getting ready for Illinois' February 5 primary. They learned the ins and outs of working election equipment, setting up the ballot box, and what to do if there's a problem.

Experts say the renewed interest in the process by young people is not only due to the charismatic personality of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, but also the historical implications of the 2008 presidental election. Either way, teens want adults to know they are not only a part of the political process but they hope to change it for the better.

Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the incredible interest in the process by teens -- who most thought at one time were no where close to participating in the system.

Monday morning's session is the brainchild of the Cook County Board of Elections along with the help of non-for-profit group -- the Mikva Foundation. Their goal is to get teens involved in the election and political process and it appears to be working.

Student judges hope to make an impact not just for the 2008 election, but also as voters one day.

"I think it is really important that people see that we are getting involved so that this will be a landmark, you know, more kids 18 to 25 will start voting and get involved," said Betsy Montgomery, student election judge

"I lot of people don't know how the system works so we give them all the necessary tools so that they can make good judgments as young adults," said Elaine Brown, Mikva Foundation.

"The goal is once they graduate high school and become voters that they continue with this process or program as serving as judges," said Kelly Bateman, Board of Elections.

The student election judge program began back in the year 2000.

Student election judges will earn a minimum of $170 for their work as one of five election judges assigned to a polling place.

Chicago continues to lead the nation in the number of student election judges with 1,800. Last election, Cook County had a record breaking number of roughly 900 teens.