UT Baker Center Helps Recruit Students to Work Polls on Election Day

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KNOXVILLE — The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has partnered with the Knox County Election Commission and Pyxl, a marketing firm, to recruit at least 200 college students in the Knoxville area to serve as poll workers for the Nov. 2 federal election in Knox County.

The program will place two students at each of the 94 precincts in Knox County. Students will be recruited from UT Knoxville, Knoxville College and Pellissippi State Community College.

“This is a great opportunity for college students to gain firsthand experience with U.S. democracy,” said Greg Mackay, administrator of Knox County elections. “We hope that this campaign can be a model for Tennessee and will be implemented by other Tennessee counties.”

Finding and training staff needed to operate polling stations is a challenge each election. In the November 2004 election, Knox County needed 915 workers to staff its precincts. Shortages of volunteers, absenteeism, discomfort and unfamiliarity with technology and other election processes, as well as a decreasing numbers of volunteers due to the increasing average age of poll workers, make it difficult to assure an effective and positive experience at the voting booth.

“With the average age of today’s poll worker being 72, it is really important to get younger generations more involved with the voting process,” said Amy Gibson, Baker Center director of communications and public programming. “College students tend to be politically minded and are comfortable with the new technology. They have a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get through a long day at the polls. If we can inspire them to be poll workers, they are likely to stay active for a long time.”

Each student will earn $150 for their participation in the program and will be able to list the experience on his or her resume.

“This program provides a great opportunity for students to work with the election commission and help shape the election process of Knox County,” said Joshua Phillips, president of Pyxl. “We are pleased to be a partner in this grant initiative.”

For more information on the campaign or to sign up to become a poll worker, visit http://www.workthepolls.com.

The Baker Center received $61,000 as part of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Help America Vote College Program. The Baker Center was one of just 15 recipients to receive funding. In partnership with the Knox Election Commission and Pyxl Inc., the Baker Center will create a program that will produce a website, training videos and social media outreach campaigns.

The Baker Center is a public policy institute integrating research, education, public programming and archives. It develops programs and promotes research to further the public’s knowledge of our system of governance and to highlight the critical importance of public service, a hallmark of Sen. Baker’s career.

For more about the Baker Center, see http://bakercenter.utk.edu/.

C O N T A C T :

Amy K. Gibson, Baker Center (865-974-3816, agibson1@utk.edu)

Nicole VanScoten, Pyxl Inc. (865-690-5551 x100, nvanscoten@thinkpyxl.com)

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