Youth Getting “Behind-the-Scenes” of Election Polling

Connor Bettis, a Rockville High School senior discusses his role in the Fall 2016 election with Parke County Clerk and Election Board Secretary Diana Hazlett.
Connor Bettis, a Rockville High School senior discusses his role in the Fall 2016 election with Parke County Clerk and Election Board Secretary Diana Hazlett.

PARKE COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – If you’re 18 and older, it’s your Democratic duty to go out and vote.

But, what if you’re a youth looking to get involved in the political process?

There’s a unique opportunity for Parke County High School students.

Parke County 16 and 17-year-olds are able to get involved behind-the-scenes with the County Clerk’s Office.

That’s through a youth polling program.

Students with at least a 3.0 GPA are invited to help the Clerk’s Office.

Diana Hazlett is the Parke County Clerk and Election Board Secretary.

She says students go through a few hours of training to learn the ropes, then they’re able to help voters fill out their ballots and more.

Hazlett says the students have the opportunity to use their technical skills to their advantage.

She says, “This election I think I have all of my students working programming cards. I think that was the highlight of their day. Being able to do that process.”

She says students are taking a lot away from their experience.

Hazlett says, “We feel like it’s a great program. Especially when we have our inspectors that work in each precinct, requesting the same student that they had in the spring. So, we know that it’s a good program and we know that the students are doing really well.”

Students fill out exit surveys after participating the program.

From those surveys, the county clerk employees notice lots of positivity.

Connor Bettis is a senior at Rockville High School.

Now that he’s 18-years-old, he’s technically aged out of the program.

But, he loves helping so much he can’t stay away.

Bettis says, “That just makes me feel so good inside that I’m helping more people voice their opinions, and I haven’t been able to do that without this program.”

Hazlett describes some of Connor’s duties.

She says, “The day before, he helps us get election equipment out and to the polling locations, and then when they come in on election night when the returns come in he helps get it back in and properly put up. So he has really excelled in the program, even though he’s out of it now.”

Bettis likes to do his part to make sure everyone is exercising their democratic right.

He says, “Not everyone likes to vote. I know that’s not a big, nice topic to talk about. But, every voice matters. There’s not one person that doesn’t matter in the voting system.”

But, Bettis’ excitement won’t stay behind the scenes this fall.

He says, “I’m excited to vote for my president, I’m very excited for that. I just can’t wait!”

Hazlett admires all of the students’ leadership and persistence.

She says, “They’re going to be our community leaders. They may be our elected officials. They’ll work the polls as inspectors, or as judges or clerk. I just think it’s very important the younger they get started, the more involved that they get.”

So, what’s Connor’s advice for those young and old?

The senior says, “Get involved. If you’re involved, you’ve done everything you can, and I think that’s a really positive thing.”

Not all counties have a youth polling program available.

But, if your child is interested in getting involved, check with your County Clerk’s Office.