Students energized about participating in government after stint as election judges
December 8, 2010
Lisle, Illinois ~ They had heard all the warnings about voter apathy and low turnout. So some Benedictine University students brought homework to their voting stations on November 2. Others brought reading material and iPods.
However, the college students-turned-election judges were pleasantly surprised.
"My technical judge told me that our polling place usually had about 20-25 percent turnout," said Benedictine University student Jessica Singh, the daughter of Christopher and Anita Singh of Sugar Grove. "I did not think that I would be doing homework the entire 14 hours, but I felt confident I would make a dent in my to-do list.
"However, we had more than 50 percent turnout," she said. "We barely had a lull between rushes."
More than 300 Benedictine University students served as election judges in DuPage County on November 2, the result of a $55,385 grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to the Center for Civic Leadership and Public Service (CCLPS) at Benedictine University to recruit and train college students to become election judges and poll workers.
The grant, made available under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) program, was designed to help fight the increasing shortage of election judges across the state and country. The CCLPS partnered with the DuPage County Election Commission to recruit, train and certify Benedictine students and other local college students as election judges.
"The program was a huge success," said Phil Hardy, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Benedictine University. "I have heard from numerous technical judges that our students did a superb job. We are very proud of the contributions made by our students. Their efforts helped to make democracy happen."
Benedictine University senior Adnan Mujagic, whose parents Sabahudin and Elma Mujagic of Naperville left Bosnia when he was 10 years old for a better life in the United States, said he was initially pessimistic that many students would participate in the program. He admitted he was wrong.
"The turnout of students interested in becoming judges was way beyond my estimations," Mujagic said. "They cared little about the paycheck and the T-shirt they received after completing the training course. They were sincere about their civic duty. Our system of democracy may be beset by flaws, but it is not broken. It is well and functioning."
Benedictine University student Sandy Kim, the daughter of Song and Jung Kim of Bartlett, said it was gratifying to see both the number of new, non-English speaking voters exercise their right at her assigned polling station in West Chicago and the number of students who chose to participate in the election judge program.
"The program was one step in energizing a new generation of citizens to participate in government and ensure the smooth operation of the democratic process," she said. "Regardless of our own party identification or political ideology, this was an opportunity for college students to get involved on a level that few get to experience.
"I, for one, am extremely glad I did," she said.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 53 undergraduate majors, 13 graduate and four doctorate programs. Benedictine University is ranked as a Top School in the Midwest (11th in Illinois) for Master's Universities, 12th in the Midwest (and sixth in Illinois) for Racial Diversity, and eighth in Illinois for Freshmen Retention for 2011 by U.S. News & World Report.