EM Program Equips Students with Voting Knowledge
Loyola Neighborhood News: Lake Shore Campus - V3, I6
The Elections are coming! The Elections are coming!
And while candidates across the political spectrum prepare for the upcoming primary election, a special group of Loyola University Chicago students are getting ready to help facilitate the voting process during the upcoming March 20th election.
In order to exercise the right to vote, there must be polling places and poll workers who can ensure that the election process is honest, fair, and efficient. Loyola students are gladly stepping up to fulfill this role.
The initiative to get students engaged in local democracy originally began on June 10, 2008. Loyola was awarded a grant from the Election Assistance Commission to create an Equipment Manager (EM) Program. The goal of this program was to recruit civic minded students to serve as EMs (similar to polling place administrators) for the November 4, 2008 General Election. The program consolidated the resources of the Division of Public Affairs with the passion of Loyola’s student body to encourage broad civic engagement and participation in the democratic process.
In addition to significant voter registration drives, the EM program allowed students to go through extensive training courses in order to learn how to master the voting equipment. The EM is essentially the leader of the polling place team—they are responsible for setting up the polling equipment before the polls open at 6 a.m., while also performing the duties of an election judge throughout the day. Furthermore, the EMs are also obligated to maintain the voting equipment, assist voters, fill out provisional ballots, and properly consolidate and transmit the polling results when the voting process is complete.
While the grant from Election Assistance Commission expired after the first two elections, Loyola decided to continue the project using its own funds. More recently, the EM program has been coordinated by the staff in the Division of Campus and Community Planning in partnership with the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
According to the Campus and Community Planning assistant, April Whitworth, the EM program “has been extremely successful.”
"We have exceeded expectations and consistently surpassed our recruitment goals,” said Whitworth.
In order to develop a program that is truly sustainable, Loyola has focused its recruitment efforts on students who have served in previous elections to ensure that the student EMs who work on Election Day are the most experienced and knowledgeable individuals. For the upcoming March 20 Primary Elections, 111 Loyola students will be returning to work as EMs and approximately 86 new students were trained in February.
According to the Cook County Clerk, David Orr, "having competent equipment managers is especially crucial now.”
“The [Loyola] students are invaluable because they are great with the new technology, able to help our veteran election judges, and they provide the foundation for a new generation of poll workers in suburban Cook County,” said Orr.
Thus far, Loyola has successfully recruited more student EMs than any other college or university in Illinois. While the monetary incentive is certainly a bonus, many Loyola students continue to participate in the program because they have found it to be an extremely gratifying experience.
“Serving as an equipment manager is a great opportunity for students to participate in local democracy and give back to their community,” said Loyola senior Nick Locke. “I feel that as a student, our participation is necessary in the political arena.”