Jesse McGuire, ’12, and Benjamin Pate, ’12, are on a mission: to engage college students in the political process in a way they have never been invited to before. As Nazareth’s first-ever Election Fellows, the two senior political science majors are working to recruit fellow classmates to give back to their communities by becoming election inspectors at the polls this November.
The Election Fellows Program, funded by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), was created after the passage of the Help America Vote Act College Program in 2002. The program selects two Election Fellows from each area college to recruit 250 students to work the polls on Election Day in November. The University of Rochester was one of 15 sites awarded a grant by the EAC in 2010, and invited other area colleges including St. John Fisher College, Roberts Wesleyan College, Monroe Community College, and Nazareth College to participate, as well.
Nazareth’s Election Fellows are currently receiving advanced training in leadership, civic engagement, and the technical components of the election process. McGuire and Pate are Nazareth’s ambassadors to the program, passionately promoting both youth involvement in the political process and service to the greater community. “College students are disenchanted with the political process,” says Pate. However, “this can be changed,” McGuire adds, “by not just voting, but by taking one’s civic responsibility to the next level: serving others by becoming an election inspector.”
Tom Ferrarese, the Democratic Commissioner for the Monroe County Board of Elections, agrees with the Fellows’ sentiment. “This program is invaluable,” says Ferrarese. “If 18-24 year-olds increased their voting participation by 20-30%, they would be the biggest voting block at the polls.” He wants to encourage students to utilize their voting power, as relevant issues, such as student loan programs, are being debated at the state and local levels.
Moreover, both Ferrarese and Republican Commissioner Peter Quinn think that the value of student political power in the role of election inspector is important, as well. “There are great benefits to having different aged poll workers. It’s a win-win for both the students and the Board of Elections,” says Quinn. Ferrarese confidently agrees, claiming that “those who participate in this program will be just as knowledgeable and capable as any other poll worker.”
The Nazareth Election Fellows are making sure of that. McGuire and Pate have created an engaging program for potential election inspectors so they can gain the most from their behind-the-scenes look at the political process in action. A workshop held shortly after Election Day will allow students to reflect on and discuss their experiences in the context of both politics and community service. McGuire and Pate are also encouraging the participation of voters from both political parties; something they exemplify in their own pairing- McGuire is a registered Republican and Pate, a registered Democrat.
While the program is geared towards youth involvement in the political process, McGuire and Pate believe that the community service aspect is what will motivate Nazareth students to participate in the program. At a school that emphasizes the importance of giving back to others, the Election Fellows Program will provide students not only with a behind the scenes look at how politics work, but also a great opportunity to have a direct impact on the authenticity of the voting process- a great service to any community. "The students will be on the front line,” says Pate. “As election inspectors they will ensure that the electoral process is executed with integrity and honesty. Their oversight ensures the legitimacy of the electoral results, and the process as a whole."
For further information about the Election Fellows Program here at Nazareth College, please contact Jesse McGuire or Benjamin Pate at firstname.lastname@example.org