On how the class influenced their experience . . .
Although the students had a wide range of experiences at their various polling places, there was one thing that they all agreed upon: taking Teddy’s Campaigns and Elections class not only enriched their understanding of the day’s events but also empowered them to help others cast their votes.
Liz: Having had the Campaigns and Elections class, I felt so knowledgeable about the system and how things work.
Will: There were a few times when a kid in line would ask their parents a question, and then their parents would give them the completely wrong answer, like the president breaks the tie if there’s 269 / 269 in the electoral college. When I heard that I said, “Do you mind if I answer that?” and they told me to go ahead and then were really grateful that I gave the kids the right answer . . . One of the most helpful things from this class was the condensed version of the California voters’ guide. We ended up sending out a PDF, and I sent it to my family. It was really helpful for me understanding the propositions and then when people called me over and asked “If I’m saying yes on this, what am I saying?” I could open up the guide and show it to them. The day was a very positive experience. People overall were really grateful, which was something I wasn’t expecting.
Lily: The problem with people having to cast provisional votes because they’d been registered as absentee was a big one. Obviously, the provisional votes still count, but not as soon as the initial votes do. But because of this class, I had the ability to explain how the whole voting process works to people who didn’t understand the difference between a regular ballot and a provisional.
Anna: I would say that I learned so much from this class about the political process that I didn’t know about before. But even then, you don’t really know how all of that is applied in real life, so the poll working experience, in that regard, was very rewarding. And, when I got home and turned on the TV, I had a very different feeling than I did in 2008. This year, I was sitting with my 13-year-old brother who was asking a lot of questions, and now I really knew what all the numbers meant. I remember being in my brother’s position, and now I know so much more now. I’m very grateful for that information. And, the people at the polling place were so thankful towards me. Over and over, they kept thanking me for what I was doing.
Nate: I think this class really helped me because a lot of people had trouble with the propositions, and we had spent about two weeks really researching them, so I knew those pretty well. The one question I couldn’t answer was, “Who should I vote for?” All I could say was, “I can’t tell you that.” Overall, this class, and then also volunteering has kind of given me perspective on the difference between the federal level—the law, how things ought to be in the perfect world—and then how the law is actually applied at the community level. Having both of those perspectives is really valuable . . . The idea that this democracy is made up of people and not laws, that gave me a really valuable perspective, and I do think, coming out of this experience, America is much more democratic than I thought. It left me very optimistic. It was just a really eye opening, great experience. I really felt like I was serving my community. It was a long day, but it was really good. I would do it again.