OPRF students help out on election day


“Democracy is not easy, but it is a fundamental component that unites us in our common pursuit for happiness. There are few days, like Election Day, that can give one a true sense of this,” said Jason Spoor-Harvey, OPRF history division head.

OPRF juniors and seniors were recently given the chance to work at the polls on election day. Those passionate student activists who took advantage of this opportunity will get to see first hand this “fundamental component” of democracy at work.

These ambitious students will be working as election judges at various polling stations throughout Cook County. The Cook County Clerk’s office the primary objective of these judges is to “work together to ensure their polling place is running smoothly and voters are properly served.” One such judge, senior Veronica Thomas, is excited to be a part of the process. “I’ve been passionate about politics for a long time (and) I am just excited to be involved,” she said.

Spoor-Harvey continued in describing the impact this experience can have on students. “They have always had a great experience, you get to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of democracy in action.”

I’ve been passionate about politics for a long time (and) I am just excited to be involved

— Veronica Thomas

This experience is particularly important when the general engagement of young people in the political process is examined. According to the Elect Project, in 2012, only 40.9 percent of voters aged 18-29 voted. This voting rate is substantially lower than it is in any other age bracket. Thomas sees this in her own activism, citing a Bernie Sanders rally she attended earlier this year. “It was me and another high schooler and everyone else was a bag of bones… and it made me sad,” she said. Another Senior and fellow student election judge Emmy Monaghan sees similar sentiments. “Even though young people know a lot about current issues… I rarely see them actively engaged in the politics.

When looking at the reasoning behind the decline in youth activism, Thomas points to social media. “People will post a meme on Instagram or something and I think that is fine but I don’t see a lot of people walking the walk,” she said. “There is a lack of people our age going out and looking for the actual facts and reading real news.”

There is a lack of people our age going out and looking for the actual facts and reading real news

— Emmy Monaghan

According to Monaghan, the importance of being active in the world can not be understated for a democracy. “I don’t think anyone would say it is not important to be politically engaged.” Democracy grants the power to the people and if people do not use this power, there will be no change.

Monaghan expands on this point for young people specifically. “Since there has been a long history of low voter turnout for young people, our candidates don’t even try to appeal to issues that young people face.”

Spoor Harvey has similar ideas about this point. “Students are directly impacted by the decisions of our government, whether it is in their college costs, military entanglements, aging relatives, or social issues like inequality, gun violence, or free speech,” he said.

For Thomas, the need for people, in particular youths, to get involved is paramount. “I have a strong belief that if I am not doing everything I can to make democracy work then I’m not doing my job.”