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Youth turn up to volunteer for elections in San Benito, Monterey Counties

Youth turn up to volunteer for elections in San Benito County
Youth turn up to volunteer for elections in San Benito County

HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION) With record breaking voter turnout, it is clear there is renewed excitement in civic participation.

So much so, elections offices on the Central Coast are having to turn away volunteers that want to help on Election Day.

About 50 percent of registered voters in San Benito County have already voted either in person or through mail, and young volunteers are getting engaged in the process.

"I've been working in this county since 2012 and I've never seen this high of a turnout," said Francisco Diaz, the assistant registrar of voters in San Benito County.

A highly anticipated Election Day is right around the corner, but for staff at San Benito County Elections, the work is already well underway.

In-person voting started back on Oct. 5; starting this weekend, it will not be just outside.

"We're going to open our interior facility and also the outside," said Diaz.

To do all this, and process a record number of mail-in ballots this election, requires a tremendous volunteer force, which has typically been difficult to recruit. Volunteers are also usually retired or older.

The difference this time around: the youth are coming out in droves to help, like San Benito High School senior Kaitlyn Taylor, who participated the first time during the March elections.

"I didn't see a lot of students doing it last time, but this time, there were multiple high school students at the training and I know a few people who are doing it who didn't go to the in-person training. So it's just drawing a lot of younger people," said Taylor, who is a volunteer poll worker.

"In San Benito County, we do have high participation from high school students," said Diaz. "As of right now, we are fortunate that we can say that at least 30 or 40 percent of all our volunteers are high school students."

Monterey County also saw a big increase in youth volunteers this time, who stepped up partially because older populations are at more risk due to the pandemic. Santa Cruz County Elections has had to turn volunteers away from poll working because of an overwhelming response. San Benito County also did the same.

The significance of this election is not lost to students either. Elections officials couldn't ask for anything better.

"It's just a really important election because the two different sides are like really different, have really different views, and they're really interested to see what's going to happen," said Taylor.

"I think a lot of them are actually excited and some of them are encouraged to be part of this current climate that we have, so they want to be part of the democratic process," said Diaz.

San Benito County has a consolidated polling place model, which means they essentially have four days of Election Day. That means all their volunteers will be out in full force all weekend until Tuesday.

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The elections office there says about 30 to 40 percent of their volunteer force is made up of young adults and teens.

KION's Josh Kristianto will have more tonight at 10 and 11 p.m.

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Josh Kristianto

Josh Kristianto is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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