Group of N.C. Tech Students Helps Gaston County Board of Elections with Exit Polls

A group of about 15 students at Highland School of Technology will conduct volunteer exit polling at voting locations throughout Gaston County on Election Day.

by Eric Wildstein, Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C. / November 8, 2016 0
Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- The work for these teens begins after the ballots are cast.

A group of about 15 students at North Carolina's Highland School of Technology will conduct volunteer exit polling at voting locations throughout Gaston County on Election Day. But the information they’re after isn’t who people voted for, but rather how people perceived their voting experience and whether they faced any challenges.

“I think it’s pretty important because the fact that many people don’t vote because of scheduling conflicts or just because they can’t get out to their districts is kind of a problem," said 17-year-old Sarah Eagan, a senior at Highland. “We’re trying to remedy that as much as we can.”

The students were recruited by the Gaston County Board of Elections, which will use their results with the intent to improve the voting process for future elections. Each of the students will ask voters questions such as were there enough precinct workers, is the polling place in a good location and how can the voting process be improved?

The activity is nonpartisan, meaning that the students conducting the exit polling will not be wearing any colors, clothing or paraphernalia affiliated with any political party or candidate.

"We’re really excited they’ll be helping us out with this," said Adam Ragan, director of the Gaston County Board of Elections.

Most of the students take social studies teacher Anna Ballard’s AP Government course at Highland Tech. In the course, they learn about, and even debate many topics related to the U.S. government. Those include anything from how the different branches of government operate to hot-button issues facing voters in this election.

They are issues to which Noah Murray says he’s paying particular attention. The 18-year-old senior is readying to vote for the first time before he begins exit polling with his classmates.

“I love how I’m allowed to vote. I’m all giddy about it,” Murray said. “It’s such a wonderful thing being able to have your voice affect what you do in everyday life.”

Though Eagan is just shy of the legal voting age in this election, she says the experience has already proven worthwhile.

“As someone who’s not able to vote, it’s important to me that I somehow be able to do something,” she said. “It’s nice that I can do exit polling to still stay in the political atmosphere, but get as much knowledge from it as I can at 17.”

Ballard says the students’ results may also be used in a statistics class at Highland School of Technology for further analysis of the election. Several students from other schools, such as East Gaston High, may also participate in the exit polling.

©2016 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.