These Delco teens aren’t old enough to vote, but they run your local polling station

This story came out of our community conversations during WHYY’s pop-up newsroom at the Media Upper Providence Public Library. What would you like us to cover? Let us know!

The typical poll worker is a middle-income white woman aged 50 to 64, according to advocacy group Democracy Fund.

But one Delco political organizer wants to see a new demographic giving out “I Voted” stickers: high schoolers.

E. Teresa Touey has been knocking on doors in the Interboro School District since 2013, asking students as young as 15 to help run local elections. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and  scared scores of older election day volunteers away from work, Touey redoubled her efforts to recruit the next generation of poll workers.

Touey started roping Gen Z into the political process with hopes they’d engage at higher levels in the future.

“We’re graying. We’re not recruiting 15-40 year olds to run for office. So I thought, ‘I want to do something about that,’’’ Touey said.

She trains younger students to help give directions and hand out literature, while 17-and-ups help set up polling stations, keep records, and guide voters through the process. This works out well because teens are at an advantage when it comes to navigating the digital software  increasingly being deployed at polling stations.

But how do you convince teenagers to wake up before 6 a.m. for a full day of giving directions and prepping ballots?

Money is a good place to start, Touey said.

The Delaware County Bureau of Elections budgets $100 for training and $140 per day for election workers — a substantial sum for any 16-year-old saving up for college.

“It’s not frivolous money. It’s bread and butter. And bread and butter is expensive today,” Touey said.

  • November 4, 2023
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