What's the best way to prevent voter apathy?
Liane Davis-Kling, Moffat County High School American government and U.S. history teacher, thinks she's found the answer: Get high school students involved in the process even before they're able to vote.
"If you're able to be a student election judge, you get to observe how people vote, and so, there's less fear when you're able to vote yourself," she said. "You know how the process works already."
Dispelling students' fear before they have access to the polls may help prevent indifference when they reach voting age, she said.
Legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2000 helps her do just that.
The Student Election Judge Program allows high school juniors and seniors to become election judges for primary and general elections.
Once at the election, student election judges have the same responsibilities as their adult counterparts.
They set up booths at voting locations.
They process voters.
They help tally the vote.
The program gives regular election judges a much-needed hand during election days.
But it also can pay off for students, too, in more ways than one.
A student election judge in Moffat County earns $150 for working the day of an election and attending a required three-hour training session beforehand.
Student judges can take more than a paycheck away from the experience.
"I think (students) can gain a greater respect of the process," said Lila Herod, Moffat County chief deputy clerk.
Not every student can qualify to be an election judge. Candidates for the program must be at least 16 years old, have U.S. citizenship and must be willing to work the entire election day, which can last up to 14 hours.
Students also must be in good standing with their high school. They cannot fall off the eligibility list, which tracks students grades.
"And, you cannot be on any disciplinary action," Davis-Kling said.
Students are paid for their efforts and excused from classes the day of the election.
Nick Cammer, 17, a Moffat County High School senior, doesn't have a problem with that.
"I skip school, and I get paid for it," he said, smiling.
On Nov. 4, Cammer will serve as an election judge in Maybell for the third time. He's one of several MCHS students signed up for the program on or before the Sept. 10 deadline.
Cammer isn't much into politics. Still, he said being an election judge has boosted his interest in voting. When he becomes eligible to cast a ballot, he plans to vote so he can have his say in who gets elected and what issues impact his state and region.
Most students who become election judges already have an interest in politics, Davis-Kling said.
Herod has noticed a trend among the student judges she's worked with in the past.
"I notice when they go off to college, they're the ones who always turn in their mail ballot applications to make sure they vote," she said.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org