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By Crystal Howerton
Knox County Clerk Debbie McCurren announced this week the participation of five incoming Knox County R-1 seniors in the Missouri Youth Election Participant Program. The Missouri Youth Election Participant Program was created in 1994 when legislation was enacted that allowed full time high school students at least 15 and less than 18 years of age to work as polling place assistants on Election Day.
Back in January, McCurren contacted Knox County R-1 administrators to extend this unique opportunity to students who displayed age appropriate academic ability and demeanor, those students of good repute who can speak, read and write the English language, and who are not related within the second degree of affinity to any person whose name appears on the ballot, unless that person is unopposed.
High School Counselor Dani Fromm responded with a list of five students who exhibited all of these traits and many more. Those students were congratulated by McCurren and offered the chance to participate in the August Primary and the November Presidential Election. Selected were Courtney Cahalan, daughter of Steve and Michelle Cahalan of Edina; Tara Mason, daughter of Bruce and Angie Mason of Edina and Kelley Western of Queen City; Kasey Douglas, daughter of Ruey and Janet Douglas of Novelty; Annie Rice, daughter of Clayton and Melissa Rice of Edina and Brett Bryant, son of Kirk and Joni Bryant of Edina.
“This is a privilege, as well as a great opportunity for our students to become involved in the election process,” said High School Principal Andy Turgeon. “We are proud of the students that were selected and confident that they will represent the school well.”
McCurren said the students should attend the regular election training, which will be held in July. “I am especially excited at the prospect of training them on the touch-screen machines,” admitted McCurren. “Young individuals adapt quicker to technology!”
Each student will be assigned to a county precinct prior to Election Day. Reporting at 5:30 a.m., students will then be sworn in and instructed to familiarize themselves with the many aspects of the election process. Having assisted the election judges in checking in voters, name and address changes, contacting the election authority as needed and setting up and monitoring direct-recording electronic (DRE’s) voting machines, students may be dismissed at noon. However, McCurren will ask for a few volunteers to return to the Knox County courthouse as the polls close to observe as the various precincts report results.
“I want them to be involved in the entire process,” said McCurren. “This is such a great opportunity to familiarize these youth with the election process and hopefully encourage their voter registration as they come of age and that they continue to vote. The benefits for everyone involved are numerous.”
“Following the election, supervisory judges will be asked to complete an evaluation sheet for their youth assistant. Upon considering the evaluations I will nominate one student for the MO County Clerk/Election Authorities Scholarship,” said McCurren. “Not only will the students have a chance to win the scholarship, but participation in this program will look great on college and job applications, also.”
To her knowledge, Knox County is the only county in Northeast Missouri currently participating in the youth program. McCurren said that she intends to use Knox County youth as polling place assistants at least every two years.