University of Virginia Center for Politics Wins Federal Grant: Funding Supports U.Va. Student Poll Worker Program, Allows Inclusion of Piedmont Virginia Community College

August 16, 2006

August 16, 2006 — The University of Virginia Center for Politics has recently won a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to expand programs to recruit and train college students as non-partisan poll workers on Election Day.

The grant of $14,699 will allow for the continuation and expansion of efforts to recruit student participants in the Student Poll Worker Program, begun in early 2006 as a partnership between the Center for Politics and the City of Charlottesville Office of Voter Registration. During the most recent city elections, on May 2, 26 U.Va. students who received training under the program served as poll workers at voting precincts throughout the city, lowering the average age of poll workers in Charlottesville from 55 to 47.

The new funding will allow the Center for Politics to build on the success of its current program for the 2006 midterm elections this coming November. Not only will the center continue to work with the City of Charlottesville, but it will also extend the program to Albemarle County. And the center will expand its recruitment efforts beyond U.Va. Grounds to include students at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The Center for Politics is committed to combating the trend of civic apathy among younger Americans. As a group, college students and young adults are the least likely to turn out to the polls and vote. The Student Poll Worker Program seeks to overcome this problem by offering students a unique perspective on democracy.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for students to participate directly in the American electoral process and become more knowledgeable, engaged citizens,” said Larry J. Sabato, professor of politics and director of U.Va.’s Center for Politics. “Polling places are the Roman Forums of American politics — they provide invaluable opportunities for citizens to come together to support representative democracy, and these students will truly appreciate the uniqueness of our system once they have seen it for themselves.”

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has given out a total of $300,0000 in grants to develop programs to recruit and train college students to serve as nonpartisan poll workers and poll assistants. The awards are part of the Help America Vote College Program, which was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to promote college student involvement.

Nineteen institutions were selected from among 55 applicants this year. The criteria for selection emphasized the innovative nature of applicants’ approaches to engaging college students and an ability to ensure that the students would improve the process of election administration by serving as poll workers on Election Day.