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Working At The Polls Before They're Old Enough To Vote

Yasmin Khan
Henry Dryden (left) and Ave Freeman, both 16 year old high school students, worked at Rio Grande High School Polling site on election day.


Poll workers spend their day checking in voters, printing ballots and helping people understand the voting process. For Albuquerque poll workers Henry Dryden and Ave Freeman, that last part is key – even though they aren’t old enough to vote yet.  

KUNM spoke with the 16-year-olds at Rio Grande High School, where they were serving as election clerks.


“Voting is a very important thing to do, and I think it is better to get involved at a younger age so you can know what to do in the future,” said Dryden, a student at Albuquerque High School. He added that several young people had showed up to vote without being registered, an indication that first-time voters may need help understanding the process. 


“I feel that people are very afraid of what will happen next," Dryden said. "It’s sort of an anxious time for younger people.”


Ave Freeman, a student at Amy Biehl High School, was volunteering at the polls with her mother as part of her school’s community service requirement.  “High school students can’t vote, it’s still important to be involved in the elections," she said. "We should be able to know about the process and know why it’s important to vote.”


Freeman said she is disappointed at the lack of compassion in election campaigns and U.S. politics in general. "So I think it is important in this election to vote with kindness," she said, "and vote thinking about people who are less fortunate than you."


Poll workers and judges at Rio Grande High School and another voting site in Albuquerque’s South Valley reported that Bernalillo County Sheriffs Deputies had stopped by, entering polling stations, though they hadn’t been called. State law prevents law enforcement officials from being at or near the polls unless they are voting or they are called for a public safety reason. 


Yasmin Khan covers worker's rights in New Mexico, with a focus on Spanish-speaking residents. She is finishing her Ph.D. in human geography and women & gender studies at the University of Toronto where she studies refugee and humanitarian aid dynamics in Bangladesh. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from UNM. Yasmin was director of The Americas Program, an online U.S. foreign policy magazine based in Mexico City, and was a freelance journalist in Bolivia. She covered culture, immigration, and higher education for the Santa Fe New Mexican and city news for the Albuquerque Journal.
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