By Eric Erickson
Although very few high school students were eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election because they had not yet turned 18, a number of Como High School students still found ways to participate in our democracy.
Ten current Como seniors became Ramsey County student election judges and served alongside veteran judges at precincts across St. Paul on Nov. 3. Online training programs prior to Election Day prepared the students for a 15-hour shift where they helped carry out tasks needed to ensure fair and legitimate elections.
Senior Fiona Hatch, who worked at North Dale Recreation Center, said the experience was valuable in connecting her to the democratic process.
“I think that young people—especially those who have not yet had the chance to vote in an election—can really benefit (by serving as election judges) because it makes politics and current events feel real,” Hatch said. “I found that while serving, I’ve been so much more invested in keeping up with our country’s policies and affairs because of my time as an election judge.”
Several Como alumni, who were election judges in the 2019 off-year elections and 2020 presidential primary, also returned to duty at St. Paul precincts.
Two members from Como’s class of 2020 continued internships with the St. Paul League of Women Voters that they began as high school seniors. Emma Wolters, who now attends the University of Minnesota, and Lila Seeba, who now attends Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, created and implemented census outreach programs last summer.
This fall, they collaborated virtually on presentations, newsletters and social media links to promote voter registration and turnout. In the digital and video conferencing world, their materials were shared from dorms near and far.
Meanwhile, two seniors from Como’s class of 2021 also began internships with the St. Paul League of Women Voters, doing census outreach last summer. Nag Poe and Kalid Ali produced materials in Karen and Oromo to distribute within their respective communities. In September, they made presentations about political participation to senior U.S. Government classes at Como via Google Meets.
“I want my community represented,” Ali said. “Since I couldn’t vote this year, I felt like registering others to vote was another way I could participate in our democratic system.”
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Senior High School.