Since she was 5, Pinal County resident Tiffanne Thomas has spent Election Day handing out “I voted stickers” at polling places. Now at 16, she’s working at Pinal County’s Precinct 68 outside of Queen Creek where fellow workers call her the computer expert.
This is the first year people younger than the voting age of 18 have been able to work at election polling places. Legislation was passed at this year’s session allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work at the polls and even get paid for it, said Gilberto Hoyos, director of elections for Pinal County.
“This hopefully exposes them to the democratic way, preparing them for when they are ready to vote,” he said. “I’m always for younger people getting involved in the electoral process – those working at the polls or those able to participate by voting.”
Thomas’ generation also has knowledge and experience with technology, which is beneficial, election officials said.
“These youngsters are very savvy, and this was one of the factors in arranging and approving this program,” Maricopa County Elections spokeswoman Yvonne Reed said. “They’re able to step right on in and help.”
Irma Waskon, assistant to the Pinal County elections director, said older, seasonal poll workers are sometimes afraid of the technology and the younger generation has been an asset during election time.
“The precinct poll workers thought they (the young poll workers) worked out well (during the primary) because of their computer knowledge,” Waskon said. “Precincts asked for them to come back.”
Thomas attends Eagle’s Aerie School in Gilbert where she is a junior. She said her teachers like the fact she’s involved in the democratic process, and her friends are curious about what she does on Election Day.
“I tell them I like meeting different people and working with the machines,” she said. “It’s a great experience, and I learn a lot.”
Thomas, who wants to be a pastor or crime scene investigator, is in charge of the electronic equipment at her precinct and helps keep things running smoothly.
“If I didn’t know how to set up the computers, nothing would get done,” Thomas said. “It’s really cool to be the only 16-year-old there.”
The teen’s grandmother, aunt and mom also work at the same precinct.
Shari Thomas, Tiffanne’s grandmother and the Precinct 68 poll inspector, said that during the primary her teenage granddaughter showed a voter how to use the electronic voting equipment and sat by their side to answer any questions.
“She saved our bacon at the primaries,” Shari Thomas said. “She was able to set things up and help everybody with the electronics. She did a good job.”
Thomas’ family has long been involved in working at the polls on Election Day. When they lived in California, their house was the site of a polling place and they would decorate and make a family day out of it.
Maricopa County Elections officials said they expect about 60 students Valleywide to work at polling places during the Nov. 7 election. About a dozen 16- and 17-year-olds worked during the primary in Pinal County; for the general election, officials expect to see about 20 of the young workers.
Voters will be required to show proof of identity at the polls this week, including one form of photo ID or two documents that bear the voter's name and current address. Acceptable forms of photo ID include: — Valid Arizona driver license — Valid Arizona identification — Tribal enrollment card or other tribal ID — Other federal, state, or local government-issued ID Acceptable forms of ID without a photograph include: — Utility bill dated within 90 days of the election — Valid Arizona vehicle registration — Indian census card — Property tax statement — Tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal ID — Recorder?s certificate — Other federal, state, or local government-issued ID such as a voter registration card
For more voter information including a list of polling locations, visit www.azsos.gov/election/VoterInformation.htm or call 877-THE-VOTE. Source: Arizona Secretary of State’s office