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Election judges create the ultimate civics classroom for teenage students

Despite his strong interest in the election, Kong Vue would normally be on the sidelines on Tuesday as his parents, neighbors and 18-year-old classmates headed to the polls.

Despite his strong interest in the election, Kong Vue would normally be on the sidelines on Tuesday as his parents, neighbors and 18-year-old classmates headed to the polls.

But thanks to his social studies teacher and the city's elections office, the 17-year-old North High senior is one of more than 200 Minneapolis high school students trained to operate voting equipment, register voters and perform other duties as trainee election judges.

In Minneapolis, high school students will make up about 10 percent of the more than 2,000 workers who will staff about 130 city polling places on Tuesday. Election officials from cities around the metro area, including St. Paul and suburbs such as Eagan, said students are a welcome addition to their staff as they brace for record voter turnouts in many precincts.

Teachers and administrators said working at the polls gives 16- and 17-yearolds a front row seat to Election Day.

"I'm going to be a part of the voting day instead of just sitting at home," said Vue, who will work a full day as a trainee election judge at Jenny Lind Elementary School on the North Side.

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According to the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, election judge trainees must be at least 16 years old, enrolled in a Minnesota high school or home schooled, a U.S. citizen, able to read, speak and write English and have approval from a parent or guardian.

"I've never been to a polling place or anything like that," said North High senior Zahkyia Holley, 18, who will vote for the first time Tuesday before her shift. "I didn't know the process was so serious. I thought you just showed up with ID, but there's someone there monitoring everything."

This week, more than 70 students from Winona State University will serve as poll workers in Winona and Rochester and metro-area cities such as Minneapolis, Oakdale and Woodbury as part of an effort to get more young people involved at the polls. Winona State Prof. Ruth Charles said it's important because the average U.S. poll worker is 71 years old.

"So many times students get involved with a campaign or person, but we're trying to work on civic engagement," Charles said.

Minneapolis election officials trained students from all seven public high schools and DeLaSalle High, a Catholic school near downtown. Sixteen St. Paul high school students have agreed to work at that city's polling places. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said his office hopes to recruit more students.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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