Voting in Montgomery Co.? You may be assisted by a middle schooler

These Montgomery Co. middle schoolers want to help you vote

A select number of sixth graders in Montgomery County, Maryland, have been trained and vetted to help with Tuesday’s state primary election.

Gilberto Zelaya, with the Montgomery County Board of Elections, started the Future Vote Initiative more than 20 years ago.

“It’s an opportunity to really introduce our youth to participatory democracy,” Zelaya said.

Zelaya joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections in 2003. He wanted to engage the electorate before they reached the age of 16, when they could preregister to vote and be poll workers.

The student election aides serve a four-hour shift and help out with tasks such as greeting voters, passing out voting material at the door, and pointing out bathrooms, which frees the poll workers to handle any issues that may arise.

“Giving out the ‘I Voted’ stickers is my favorite part,” said sixth grader Stella Van Ness. The Pyle Middle School student thought people were required to vote by law before she received training from the Future Vote Initiative.

Zelaya said they get into the weeds of voting during training.

“They come in not knowing much about the process and they’ll leave experts,” Zelaya said.

Emerson Vigneault said she thinks the training she received from the Future Vote Initiative will make her a more informed voter.

“I think it’s going to help me when I’m older because I feel like voting is a pretty complicated process,” she said.

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For their time as election aides, the students can select to receive student service learning hours, which are required to earn your high school diploma in Maryland. The students can also choose to be paid.

Zelaya said he’s proud of his work with the Future Vote Initiative and said he believes Montgomery County is the only place in America that has a program that includes middle school students.

Montgomery County is looking for student election aides for the general election. Text the letters “FV” to 77788 to apply.

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Jimmy Alexander

Jimmy Alexander has been a part of the D.C. media scene as a reporter for DC News Now and a long-standing voice on the Jack Diamond Morning Show. Now, Alexander brings those years spent interviewing newsmakers like President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney and Sean Connery, to the WTOP Newsroom.

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