14 Oct 2015

In our homeschools, one of the great things we have is flexibility. We can engage in experiences that are sometimes hard within a traditional system because they require being away from the school. Thus, homeschoolers are frequently field-tripping and partaking of homeschool days at places like Tryon Palace or Old Salem. We visit museums and botanical gardens and glean educational value from just about every family vacation or trip to the beach. A very enlightening thing that we did recently was to sit in on courtroom proceedings for a couple of hours. It’s eye-opening to witness our judicial and legislative bodies in action. A great way to experience the legislative side of our state is to serve as a page for the governor, the house or the senate. If you want more information on that program for students ages fifteen to eighteen, go to the NCHE.com website and look under the activities tab, where you will find a tab for the page program.

The opportunity I would like to highlight in this article is the Student Election Assistant Program. While this program has been available for a few years, many are unaware of it. It requires about two days of time, one for training and one on an election day and is for students age seventeen or older by the election day. Students are involved in many aspects of the day and duties change based on need at the time. The value is that they see all the ins and outs of an election-day process, which can be many! While most people just come in and vote, there are also many other things happening. Students may encounter people lobbying for their candidate, or may deal with other questions and issues that need to be resolved. Because being at a polling station is a people business, students will see all kinds of people with all kinds of agendas. For someone about to enter the world of adult voting, being an election assistant is a great way to gain experience and a broader understanding of the voting process.

As you know, in NC in 2016, we have two big election-related events: a presidential election and the first time voter identification will be required for voting. To keep the voting going smoothly, the State Board of Elections (BOE) anticipates needing many more hands on deck to deal with the multitude of questions and issues that will most certainly arise. The BOE has asked us to bring this program to the attention of our membership in the hopes that many students will volunteer to help on election day. It is a fantastic opportunity for our upper level high school students to participate in a civic role on landmark elections. Of course every election is important, so students can sign up now for elections happening this year as well as for next year.

Learning about our governmental systems and giving time to our country is a civic duty. We encourage homeschool students to take this opportunity and learn a lot in the process!

The following text is from the state BOE, providing what you need to know to get started.

Student Election Assistant Program

In 2003, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law allowing high school students to work in the polls on election day, if they meet certain requirements. The Student Election Assistant program affords qualified students the opportunity to play a direct role in the elections process while also building out their resumes and college application portfolios and potentially earning community service hours. Each county Board of Elections (BOE) is responsible for implementing this program for their polling sites. 

This year, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) has partnered with North Carolina’s 100 county BOE offices to push a statewide publicity initiative, inviting high school students across North Carolina to work in the polls on election day as an election official.

In order to serve as a Student Election Assistant, a student must be a US citizen enrolled in high school (including public, charter, private and homeschools), a resident of the county in which they will serve, seventeen years of age or older by Election Day and in good academic standing. Students must also have permission from their parent or legal guardian and from their school principal or director. Students will need to be available for training in addition to being at an assigned polling place on election day.

Your local BOE office can provide more information about becoming a Student Election Assistant, including the required dates and hours. Applications can be found by visiting the “Elections: Get Involved” of the www.NCSBE.gov website and should be submitted directly to the appropriate county BOE office. 

County BOE contact information can also be found be found on the NCSBE website.

Diane Helfrich is a veteran homeschooler of fourteen years. She now serves as the NCHE development director. She is active in her church music program and loves teaching confirmation to middle schoolers at her church. Outside of church, she has taken up playing the ukulele. She is married to newly-retired David. They have two children. Ian is working on a Ph.D. in economics at Georgia Tech, and Anna is a case manager for trafficked and abused children in Yakima, Washington.