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ST. MARYS — As veteran poll workers helped guide voters to their precincts, a handful of Memorial High School students took the chance to learn first-hand what goes into running an election.
Seniors were excused from class as part of the Youth at the Booth program, which allows students to serve as poll workers to learn about the electoral process. In all, six Roughriders were stationed at polling locations throughout the county.
“The students are all taking government classes so we talk about the voting process,” Memorial High School Government Teacher Mike Jay told The Evening Leader. “This is a great way for them to live the voting process — to experience what goes into it. I think it’s a great educational thing for them to do.”
Three students — Brooke Hertenstein, Jason Freewalt and Charlie Eberle — were stationed at the Union Hall in St. Marys. Hertenstein said she decided to take part in the program as a way to learn more about the election process.
“I thought it would be a really neat experience, especially for my first year being eligible to vote,” she said. “So far, it’s been going really well. It’s a really neat experience.”
The students had to take a training session to learn all the aspects of being a poll worker. Like their veteran counterparts, the students also worked the entire day at the polling locations.
“I was surprised at how much checking we have to do,” Hertenstein said. “We end up checking off three different books of who voted just to make sure we get everyone accounted for.”
Freewalt said he decided to serve as a poll worker because he felt it was his duty as an American voter.
“As an American, it’s our privilege to vote and people before us fought for that right,” Freewalt said. “I feel like for me to be a voter, I should experience, at least once, what it’s like to be a poll worker. I think there are too many people who don’t vote, and they should because it’s the only way you have to speak up about the way you feel.”
When the polls opened at 6:30 a.m., there was a line at the door. Freewalt said that initial rush surprised him.
“A lot of the people come in at once and you just have to get it down as fast as you can,” Freewalt said. “There was a line of people waiting at 6:30 a.m. and normally I wouldn’t even get up until 6:30 a.m.”
Freewalt also encouraged his fellow Roughriders to take part in the program.
“It’s a good learning experience,” Freewalt said. “It helps you learn how our voting process works.”
Eberle said the forecast for a close election sparked his interest in becoming a poll worker.
“I just wanted to be part of it all and learn what it’s all about,” Eberle said. “I thought it would be more complicated. It is a pretty simple job, but you have to do it very thoroughly and make sure it’s done correctly.”
Auglaize County Board of Elections Director Carolyn Campbell said the program is a good way to expose the students to the election process.
“I think it’s an eye-opener for them,” Campbell said. “I think it’s a good working environment for them — they are in an adult atmosphere and it’s an important job. They are expected to do the same job as the adults — they don’t just stand around. They get trained and work just like the other workers. It’s really a neat program.”