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Bellefonte High Seniors Forgo Class Trip, Work Election Day Instead

by on May 25, 2011 7:28 AM

You could call them part-time patriots.

Five Bellefonte Area High School students opted out of their senior-class trip last week and instead helped organize and operate the University Park polling station.

The polling station, in the HUB-Robeson Center, is the voting spot for hundreds of Penn State students who live on – or near – campus and are registered to vote in State College.

But with the university's spring semester having ended before Primary Election Day, active voters at the Heritage Hall station barely outnumbered workers on May 17.

By 5 p.m., 10 hours into the 13-hour day, the teenaged poll staff had seen only seven students walk into the polling station and vote.

"We didn't expect much," Brianna Wendt, a Bellefonte senior, said. "We've just been laying around wasting time by playing some volleyball."

The Bellefonte students all voluntarily skipped their class trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio so they could run the polling place.

"We all had our own reasons not to go," Wendt said.

While they missed their class trip, the students did receive $100 apiece for their day's work, even if it meant standing (or laying) around. Some curled up in various corners reading books; others tried to catch up on sleep.

Blame it on the summertime exodus from State College, a general lack of civic engagement, or maybe just that some college students choose to vote in their home precincts.

Whatever its cause, the slow turnout is nothing new at the HUB polling place – at least not for municipal primaries with no national races at stake. The scene is worlds away from November 2008, when hundreds of student voters packed the HUB for the last presidential election.

"Fours years ago, when students helped before, we only had four people come in," Wendt said of the 2007 municipal primaries. "So I guess seven people is an improvement."

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Marcus Correll is a Penn State journalism student, an Onward State writer and a summer intern. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] His Twitter handle is @marcuscorrell.
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