Grants available to recruit poll workers

The Election Assistance Commission is accepting applications for grant programs aimed at recruiting the next generation of poll workers and promoting student engagement in elections.

Grants totaling $750,000 are being offered under the Help America Vote College Program to encourage college students to serve as poll workers. Another $200,000 will be offered in a Mock Election Program to fund education activities in secondary schools.

A 2005 EAC report found that during the last presidential election, 5.8 percent of polling places and 4 percent of precincts did not have the required minimum number of poll workers. The College Program will also leverage the technology skills of a tech-savvy generation as well as build a poll worker recruiting base for future elections.

The younger volunteers are attractive poll workers as a new generation of information technology-based voting technology is being introduced in polling places, but you do not have to be a geek to do the work, said EAC Chairwoman Rosemary Rodriguez.

'For most of the poll workers' duties, it is knowledge that can be acquired easily,' Rodriquez said. 'But we find it a little better to have some familiarity with it.'

In addition to taking advantage of a familiarity with computer technology, the program also wants to tap a pool of volunteers that is underrepresented at the polls, where older workers tend to predominate. This is partly because of the more flexible schedules many established workers and retirees have. But it is also a result of a different educational experience, Rodriquez said.

'The older generation accepts civic responsibility,' she said. 'It was kind of drilled into us as a part of our civics education,' that is missing in many schools today, she said. 'I think there is a whole new generation that is missing out on the fun.'

The College Program grants are authorized under the Help America Vote Act. The EAC awarded $950,000 to colleges and nonprofits under this program in 2004 and 2006. Grants for the Mock Election Program are authorized under the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act for 2008. Between both the college and mock election programs, the EAC will award up to 85 grants of at least $10,000 each.

Private and public postsecondary institutions, community colleges, nonpartisan student organizations, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for the College Program grants. State election offices and nonprofit organizations with experience holding mock elections are eligible to apply for the Mock Election Program grants. Funds cannot be used to support any partisan, voter registration or get-out-the-vote activities.

Applications are due by 4 p.m. EDT April 7, and must be mailed or hand-delivered to the EAC. Grant applications for both programs can be downloaded from www.eac.gov/grantswww.eac.gov/grantswww.eac.gov/grantswww.eac.gov/grants. Questions regarding the College Program can be e-mailed to Juliana Milhofer or Edgardo Cort's. For questions about the Mock Election Program, send an e-mail to Julie Ruder or Edgardo Cort's. They can also be reached toll-free at (866) 747-1471.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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