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DCCAN, the student poll worker training program, receives grant from United States Election Assistance Commission

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) just announced that Dutchess County Citizen Action Network (DCCAN), a nonpartisan program to train and employ poll workers established by Vassar professor Sarita McCoy Gregory, is one of just 11 programs nationwide to receive a 2009 Help America Vote College Program grant. The official announcement noted that the “competition for the grant was stiff, with 71 organizations requesting over five times more funding than was available.” 


This year, the EAC has awarded DCCAN $20,000 to continue the development of the nonpartisan collaboration among Dutchess County colleges and the Board of Elections.



This is an amazing opportunity to build upon what we started last year,” said Vassar political science professor Sarita McCoy Gregory on learning of the award. “I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Board of Elections in Dutchess County as well as expanding our existing college collaboration of Dutchess County Community College, Marist, and Vassar to include Bard College.”



Professor Gregory noted the inclusion of Bard this year is one of two main changes to the structure of DCCAN. She noted that Bard’s participation, “will give us more accessibility to polling locations on the outer [northern] edges of Dutchess County.”



Gregory said that the second change to the program is a “primary mission”: to develop a curricular option for students in the Hudson Valley to receive college credit for their DCCAN poll work experience. Gregory has already started designing this new course in the Department of Political Science at Vassar.  It will be offered in the fall of 2010.


In addition, she said that there is a plan to “increase outreach to include a greater diversity of students, including those with disabilities, and the expansion of our inclusion awareness training for all of our college poll workers.”



Responding to reports of an estimated shortage of 500,000 poll workers nationwide and 1,300 in Dutchess County and following the advice of the Commissioner of the Dutchess County Board of Elections, Vassar professor Sarita McCoy Gregory decided establish Dutchess County Citizen Action Network (DCCAN) in the fall of 2008 to train college students as poll workers. Through this effort more than 250 students received training last fall and were able to help alleviate the critical shortage of poll workers in Dutchess County.



DCCAN is a nonpartisan, educational collaboration of four Dutchess-based campuses—Bard College, Dutchess County Community College, Marist College, and Vassar College—that partners with the Dutchess County Board of Elections to train any college student who is registered to vote in Dutchess County as a poll worker.



"Poll workers are the people who ensure the conduct of fair and accurate elections," observed Gregory. "They prepare the individual precincts, setting up voting equipment, greeting voters, verifying registrations, and providing voters with appropriate ballots. At the end of the Election Day, poll workers close the precinct and prepare election materials for delivery or actually deliver the material to the Elections office."



In addition to the civic engagement and the training program, students who join the DCCAN poll worker program will receive a stipend of $35 for attending one of the three training sessions as well as $215 for working at a polling place, from approximately 5:00am to 9:00pm, somewhere in Dutchess County, on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2009.



“Our goal is to recruit 40–50 students to serve as poll workers this fall in Dutchess County,” Gregory explained, “replacing students due to attrition and graduation.”  Each of the students will receive training through the Board of Elections, so that they will become certified as an official poll worker to serve in the upcoming November 3 election.


“The student poll workers will help check names against the official roster and provide any appropriate assistance to voters.  However they’re not able to or allowed to electioneer in any way,” said Gregory. “They’ll be trained in disability and cultural awareness, making sure that people coming to the polling place to vote feel comfortable. Basically we will encourage them to smile, be friendly, and create a warm and inviting place for people to come and vote.”


“Our goal, for the students, is not only to train them to be poll workers, but to get them excited about their own civic engagement, in a way that is meaningful. The fact that they can be an actual part of helping to ensure the election and democracy, as it is actually occurring, is important,” Gregory concluded. “The commitment isn’t huge, but it is a way they can look forward to participating in this area, in Dutchess County, and it may hopefully lead to a continued participation in their adult lives.”



Last year, DCCAN received $31,785 to develop and implement the program with Marist, Dutchess, and Vassar, and was one of the 27 programs funded by EAC’s 2008 Help America Vote College Program.



Students interested in getting involved for the first time or renewing their training should contact DCCAN at
pollworkers2009@gmail.com. The student poll worker training dates, times, and locations will be announced on the DCCAN website, dccan.org. Note that October 14, 2009 is the last day to register to vote and to sign up with DCCAN.


The purpose of the
United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC)  2009 Help America Vote College Program is to recruit the next generation of poll workers. As poll workers are critical to running smooth elections, the program seeks to ease poll worker shortages such as those seen in the 2004 election, where 5.8 percent of polling places and 4 percent of precincts reported having too few poll workers, according to the 2004 EAC Election Day Survey.



Authorized by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the program has awarded 74 grants, totaling $2.4 million, to colleges and nonprofits to recruit, train and support college students serving as poll workers on Election Day since 2004.



EAC is an independent commission created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and serves as a national clearinghouse and resource of information regarding election administration. In addition to administering the College Program, the EAC also provides information about poll worker requirements in each state, and issues guidebooks and information to local election officials on poll worker recruitment and training. For additional information as well as training videos and other election management materials, see www.eac.gov.



People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Directions to the Vassar Campus are available online .

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, September 17, 2009