Political participation promotes personal pride

Students serve community as poll booth operators for the upcoming 2020 election

Senior+Katie+Puperi%2C+right%2C+stands+with+one+of+Travis+County%E2%80%99s+voting+signs.+On+Nov.+3+Katie+is+planning+on+working+at+the+polls.+Senior+Nick+Lopez%2C+left%2C+poses+with+a+Democratic+sponsored+sign.+Because+Lopez+is+18%2C+he+is+planning+on+voting+in+the+upcoming+election.

Mia Folkers

Senior Katie Puperi, right, stands with one of Travis County’s voting signs. On Nov. 3 Katie is planning on working at the polls. Senior Nick Lopez, left, poses with a Democratic sponsored sign. Because Lopez is 18, he is planning on voting in the upcoming election.

Mia Folkers, Feature Editor

As the early morning shift starts, she watches as hundreds upon hundreds of unknown faces enter the building. As she tries to keep up, she quickly works to organize everyone to the open machines so they all have a chance to cast their vote in a timely manner.

Although her work might have been small through the mere few hour shift, she knows that she has made an important action to assist her country’s democracy.

Senior Katie Puperi has signed up to work at the voting polls in this year’s 2020 election.

  “My friend Mariah mentioned the polls while we were speaking at a Global Events Club meeting,” Puperi said. “ I really liked the idea since I am too young to vote but still want to participate in the election.”

With Election Day coming up on Nov. 3, Puperi believes that she will benefit by being part of the polling process.

“I am interested to learn how they work since I have never voted before,” Puperi said. “I wish to know more about American Democracy and become a more educated voter for future elections, and what better way to do so than to get first-hand experience.”

Along with Puperi, senior Nick Lopez has also registered to work at the polls.

“I came across an article that was written about how due to the pandemic, that polling stations were in need of workers, so I decided to research further into it,” Lopez said. “I am going to be a first-time voter this year, so I am excited to see how voting works and how the polls function so that people can [vote].”

In addition to Puperi’s passion to assist in the voting process, she is eager to stay involved in her political interests.

“Political events don’t really have a bunch to do with my future plan,” Puperi said.” [However], I would like to minor in political science in college since that is something that interests me.”

Similarly to Puperi, Lopez finds meaning through his involvement in the polls that connects to his political passions.

“I feel that even though not every teenager can vote, politics still affects them in a lot of the same ways that it does everyone else,” Lopez said. “[It’s] important for us to be informed about what’s going on in our current political landscape.”

Student involvement is seen as a positive for politics, but it can have some downsides, according to Election Protection worker Andrea Leyva.

“I think it is great that young people feel strongly about political and social issues, particularly those involving social justice,” Leyva said. “However, it is very important that the [information] is researched and vetted. Spreading inaccurate information is extremely dangerous as the misinformation can go viral very quickly and then you have an entire community that has been misinformed.”

According to Puperi, even with all the positives, young students could gain from political experience at the polls, there are still some aspects to the upcoming polls that she is worried about.

“I am definitely a little nervous about just doing the shift in general since I don’t know what the process is like at all,” Puperi said. “There is training I will have to do before I can work the polls, so I think that will be able to calm my nerves.”

I am just excited to be able to help out and contribute some work toward the election. Since I can’t provide a vote, this is the next best thing.”

— Katie Puperi

Although preparing for Election Day as a poll worker may be challenging, the experience is worthwhile, according to Leyva.

“I think once you have either been a poll worker or have done election protection work or even voter registration, there are so many benefits that flow from these actions,” Leyva said.  “You definitely can see firsthand the commitment that American voters have to exercise their right to vote, often going to great lengths to let their vote count.”

Even with recent obstacles-such as COVID-19 regulations and limitations on Texas mail-in ballots- that have made voting increasingly difficult, Puperi feels that people will take the time to vote regardless of the adjustments they have to make.

“In Texas, you can only get a mail-in ballot if you are disabled, over the age of 65, in jail, or out of the country for the entirety of the voting period,” Puperi said. “I think people will still show up to the polls in their PPE and vote, but we will just have to see.”

Lopez has similar optimism on the election and believes that young people being involved in politics is making a difference in voter turnout.

“I think that [the increase of young people in politics] is motivating other people who are young to get more involved in politics and research the issues that are most important to them,” Lopez said. “I believe that people knowing about these issues will motivate them to vote.”

Puperi believes that the drive to vote from younger generations has peaked this year than in previous elections.

“A lot of students are involved with this election because we don’t like the current president, and are worried for both the health of America as well as the health of our friends and family,” Puperi said. “I think if students vote, it will show them that we can make a difference, and hopefully this will increase voter turnout in future elections.”

Lopez had similar beliefs as Puperi and finds younger age groups efforts to be extremely important within this year’s election

“I feel that younger [generations] are more involved in and concerned with modern-day issues that affect their future,” Lopez said. “They bring an outlook to Democracy that is thinking ahead and important for their generation.”

Leyva believes that a desire to make change in the current political situation has been fostered by students, but it is becoming a collective ideal embraced by all ages.

I would encourage students to have an inquisitive and open mind. Listen to both sides, and form your own decision about where you stand.”

— Andrea Leyva

“Students are more interested in learning and participating in the election than in years past because the elected officials are not representing the wishes of the progressive youth,” Leyva said. “They likely also see the ineptitude of this administration that espouses views that do not align with themselves and their peers.  By all accounts, this election is supposed to have record-breaking voter turnout. The enthusiasm around the issues is not reserved for just students.  It’s the entire public and this widespread interest in education and participation in the election process is infectious.”

In general, Puperi finds any involvement in politics to be an important part of being a citizen, and takes pride in the upcoming hours she will work at the polls.

“I am just excited to be able to help out and contribute some work toward the election,” Puperi said. “Since I can’t provide a vote, this is the next best thing.”