Sacramento area youth volunteer to help facilitate midterm election



Kylie Huang, Mira Loma High School

Youth throughout Sacramento County worked at the polls for the midterm elections in November, helping to make voting more efficient and accessible.  

The election work gave the  Sacramento region young volunteers an opportunity to encourage others within their community to vote for candidates they believed would best represent them.

Students were also able to see first-hand how information is processed and votes are counted and how reliable the process is. Bilingual students were especially valued, as they were able to communicate effectively with people who don’t speak English as their first or primary language. 

Kinu Van Vorhis is an election assistant working for precinct operations at the Sacramento County Office of Voter Registration and Elections. Through her work, Van Vorhis said she aims to strengthen voting access throughout the county. 

“I am mostly responsible for making sure the facilities we use for vote centers and drop boxes are accessible to everyone who wants to vote,” she said. “I take a lot of measurements and pictures and suggest any accommodations that can be made, like propping a door open or cones to make sure someone visually impaired doesn’t run into anything protruding from the walls.”

Van Vorhis has another significant role to play, one in which she works directly with youths. 

“During actual election season, I also assist in training the workers for our vote center and helping our vote centers run smoothly any way I can,” she said, “like getting them supplies and information or solving problems while they’re open over the phone.”

Van Vorhis said that by working at the polls, young people are able to have a larger role in the voting process. 

“It’s good work experience,” Van Vorhis said, “and we get feedback from our inspectors, the vote center managers, that they appreciate having young people helping out in their vote centers.”

Kira Derlantiss is a senior in high school and worked as a student clerk on election day. 

“In the past I’ve been pretty curious about the voting process and how votes are received,” she said. “I had a vague idea of what the process was. Although, after working with the Sacramento County elections department, I’m glad to say that it was an amazing experience and I have a better idea of what voting is like.”

Daniel Panganiban, a senior at Monterey Trail High School, spent a few months working at a voting center for the November general election. 

“As a ballot officer, my job is to help the voter get started with the actual voting either on paper or using a touch screen,” he said in an interview on Nov. 2. “If they choose a paper ballot, then I put in their precinct number and print out the ballot. If the voter chooses the touch-screen ballot, I need to activate a voter card, which kind of looks like a standard debit card. The voter can then insert it into a machine that prints a kind of receipt ballot, which they can then place into the ballot box.”

But that’s not the only work Panganiban performed. 

“I switch positions between ballot officer and greeter,” he said in the interview. “As a greeter, it’s more of an easier job, just helping voters who filled out mail-in ballots in pink envelopes into the pink mail-in ballot (box) and making sure that their signature and date are correct.”

Panganiban said his work has been rewarding.

“I’ve met new people and learned a lot about how the voting process works from the inside,” he said. 

Michelle Hernandez, a senior at Grant Union High School, also volunteered at the polls for the November election.

“I started working as a student poll worker as a junior when my high school held mock elections and had applications to be able to work as a student poll worker,” she said. “Our job responsibilities vary and differentiate from different positions, such as being a check-in officer, a printing officer, etc. Overall our duties include issuing ballots to registered voters, registering voters, monitoring the voting equipment and explaining how to mark the ballot or how to use the voting equipment.”

For Derlantiss, the work environment for youth poll workers led to a positive experience. 

“On November 7-8, I was employed as a student clerk and filled the position of the ballot officer both days at the voting centers I was assigned to,” she said. “My instructor was extremely helpful with the online pre-training and situating my work schedule …. Everyone was welcoming, respectful and seemed to be really comfortable in the environment.”

The application process to serve as a volunteer is fairly straightforward. Applications can be picked up at school during mock elections or online at the Sacramento County website. To qualify, students must be at least 16 years old and still in high school, or over the age of 18. 

Youth poll workers work directly with voters, typically at local voting offices. These can range from community centers and libraries to buildings opened specifically for in-person voting. 

“The expectations of the student clerks are pretty much the same as any clerks that are adults; to help people in Sacramento County vote safely, simply and securely,” Van Vorhis said. “Once they apply and are staffed, we expect everyone to do an online training and an in-person, hands-on training. Then to show up to their assigned vote center on the assigned day.”

Working at polling centers allow youths to get more involved with politics and their local community. 

“I think it’s a good idea for younger students to try and experience working at the polls,” Panganiban said. “You get a better understanding of how our country’s voting process works, seeing as how one day they will be a part of it.”

Van Vorhis agreed. 

“It’s important for youths to work as student clerks so they can see how the voting process works,” she said, “and be confident, educated voters going into adulthood.”

Youth workers can help bridge the gap between young people and their local government, encouraging transparency about the voting process and educating the next generation of voters. 

“I believe it is crucial for other youths to join because, before we know it, we will vote and have our voices heard,” Hernandez said. “It is also essential to understand how the voting process works, and working as a student poll worker has allowed me to learn how that works in a better understanding and will allow me to be prepared for when it comes to my time to vote.”