THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE: From working the polls to national news coverage – my experience this election

By Vandita Rastogi, Indian Hill High School Student Experience Journalist 

INDIAN HILL, OH  (December 8, 2020) –This past November, as part of the presidential election, I was interviewed by NBC Nightly News. We will get to those details in a minute …

Indian Hill High School senior Vandita Rastogi being interviewed for NBC Nightly News. (Provided)

2020: If anything, this year has taught us to go with the flow, learn something new, and not be afraid to step outside our comfort zone. Most importantly though, it has taught us to help those who need it most in critical times. As the pandemic rages on, it has become imperative for young people to take the lead in positions that they previously may never have. One of those critical places: election precinct locations. 

In recent election years, senior citizens were the ones to step up as volunteers at the polls. However, as the pandemic makes it difficult for the elderly to go outside into what became hotspots, students around the country volunteered to take their place. Partnering with organizations such as Poll Hero, more than 35,000 young people across the nation helped keep the polls open this year. Of those, a few were from the Indian Hill High School, including me.

As poll workers we took part in online training prior to Election Day, set up the precinct location with our team the night before the big day, and spent over 15 hours at the precinct to ensure voters could cast their ballot. Only 17 years old, I thought my only job would be to welcome voters inside and ensure that they scanned their ballot. There was no way I was to check them in. But, with helpful reassurance from the team, I helped check for valid IDs, registered new voters, and handed them their respective ballots. 

For me, the most interesting part of the whole day was talking with protesters and voters during and after the election was over. I was able to understand what issues were most important to them, from human rights to immigration policies. It really drove home the important points our new president must work to improve to cater to the citizens of our country. 

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Jessie Cleverly, a senior, also reflects on her experience, saying that her biggest takeaway was, “the fulfillment I got from participating in our democratic process. I worked to keep a place open where people can voice their opinions and vote, which I feel is one of our most crucial rights.” Indeed, it was very important for the young population to keep voting locations open this year. It encouraged more people to exercise their voting rights. Even new voters got a cheer from our team, providing an encouraging atmosphere during such uncertain times. 

I really encourage young people to go out there and take part in such a monumental process of our democracy. Now, more than ever, the country needs us to step up and make a change. It’s a rewarding opportunity, and it’s not limited to just working the polls: you can campaign for candidates, write to your congressmen/congresswomen about the issues you care about, or even write a letter to a local newspaper. We are the generation that will be growing up in this new era of democracy and it is our job to constantly improve it. Taking a part in the government is indeed the first step. 

Now, back to my NBC Nightly News debut. Evidently, they thought it was a pretty big deal that a 17-year old student was volunteering, and they interviewed me as part of that story. Click here to view the coverage.