By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer
In response to a call for volunteers on Election Day, about 15 Baylor students have stepped up to work at the polls. On Nov. 3, Waco NAACP and other organizations will be providing amenities like snacks and lawn chairs to encourage voters to stay in line.
Waco NAACP President Dr. Peaches Henry said she has collected a group of about 65 volunteers with high school and college students alike. In addition to service hours and a free T-shirt, these students will be able to get involved with maintaining voter turnout.
“It makes me feel excited about the future of our country,” Henry said. “I am never one of those people who thinks that young people are not engaged in the political process. They absolutely are, and I know that because when I put out the request for volunteers for Election Day, I actually got close to 100 [responses] in less than a 2-hour period.”
These volunteers will be tasked with passing out water, snacks, phone chargers, lawn chairs and umbrellas as needed, Henry said. They will be working especially toward the end of the day when people are getting off work and the lines become longer.
“I want them to use their youth and enthusiasm to make the process of standing in line a positive one, so that we can help people pass the time and make sure they are as comfortable as they can be standing in a line,” Henry said.
Houston senior Lexy Bogney, Baylor NAACP President, said her chapter makes up about six of the college volunteers working the polls. She said she will be volunteering and thinks it is an “amazing opportunity.”
“For a lot of us, this is our first major election that we are going to be voting in,” Bogney said. “Since a lot of us have already done our part to vote early, I think it’s just as important to encourage people who are going to be voting on Election Day to stay in line and know their voting rights.”
Henry said although they are not certain that voters will come in great numbers on Election Day, the NAACP anticipates lines will be long. She said there are many voters who prefer to vote in-person on the day of the election and even with early voting, she expects heavy turnout.
The elimination of straight-ticket voting and the addition of local elections to the November ballot because of COVID-19 delays are also factors that will increase the time it usually takes voters to cast their ballot, Henry said.
“Our desire is to help people stay in line so that they are able to vote,” Henry said. She said she wants people to know of the rule stating “as long as they are in line by 7 o’clock, they must be allowed to vote.”
Waco NAACP isn’t the only organization that recruited volunteers to work the polls. Henry said they work with “a coalition of organizations” under Waco NAACP’s Project VIER, or Voter Information Education and Registration, including the Waco League of Women’s Voters.
Bogney said getting involved with the political process has already taught her more about voting and her own rights. She said she hopes that by showing up to work at the polls, students will have a chance to spread a positive image of youth and politics.
“I think it’s definitely going to turn the tides on that traditional stereotype that young people aren’t really involved or that they don’t care,” Bogney said. “I think [voters] seeing us there also might make them feel hopeful for the generations to come because we are out there showing our faces and making sure everyone knows what rights they have.”
Henry said it is crucial for students to get involved with civic engagement because “every aspect of their lives is impacted” by what happens in government. Though Henry isn’t looking for more volunteers, she said working at the polls to ensure voters remain in line until they cast their vote is a great way to make a difference. Another way is to encourage everyone to vote.
“Young people are absolutely engaged in the political process. They want to have a part in making sure that it goes forth smoothly, and it makes me understand that they know the political process has great implications for their life at this moment and for going forward,” Henry said. “It makes me proud to see our young people engaging in this election and I know that they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.”