By Bryan Simonaire
Senator, District 31
We continue to hear that we want young people to get involved in their government and civic duties. However, every election, few young people come out and vote.
This past legislative session, I work with advocates to craft a bill that will hopefully help our youth become more active in local government for years to come. I proposed a statewide Election Day page program that would allow anyone 14 years of age and older, under supervision, to participate in polling centers on Election Day.
We had support from students, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, Maryland State Education Association and more. I am pleased to report that my program passed the legislature and was recently signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan.
It is a voluntary program, so each county can decide whether or not to participate. The Maryland State Board of Elections is in the process of creating a standard procedure for training and implementation of the program. Once the procedures are complete, a county and its local board of elections can request to participate in the program in its jurisdiction.
The basics of the program are that a county student 14 years or older may apply to his or her local board of elections. The student must complete the necessary training and be available for at least one four-hour shift on Election Day. The parent would be required to come to the brief training session with the student on the night before the election.
The page would serve under the direct supervision of the chief election judges and assist in the duties assigned to them. For example, the youth could hand out “I voted” stickers, assist elderly voters, provide assistance to election judges or simply provide a smile while thanking voters for coming out.
A page may not engage in any partisan activity or touch any marked ballot at any time.
The board will partner with the local school system to establish a selection process, which will allow students from public and private schools, as well as homeschooling, to apply.
Since schools are typically closed on Election Day, it is easy for students to participate. Additionally, students can earn community service hours from their schools.
Some older students may already be allowed to help in the polling center if they are register to vote, but this would allow them to test the waters in four-hour blocks and earn school community service hours in the process. Currently, workers sign up for entire day, which can be over 12 hours.
The goal is to get students involved in the election process and see how they can make a difference. Hopefully, this will ignite a lifelong love for our country, government and community service.
It is my hope that the program will be available in Anne Arundel County for the upcoming 2020 presidential primary elections next winter.
If you want your student to get involved, contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-841-3658, and we will let you know the next steps.
It is my goal to continue to think outside the box and provide creative ways to help solve everyday problems.