Secretary of State recognizes DCSD for role in election process
For more than a decade District has hosted polling places, provided student election judges
CASTLE ROCK – While there are no classes in the Douglas County School District next Tuesday, Election Day, a number of DCSD’s high school students will be getting a hands-on civics lesson. They have volunteered to be student election judges at the polling places being held in the District’s schools. It is part of a decade-old partnership with the Douglas County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, which has once again received national recognition.
On Tuesday, November 1, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, along with Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Merlin Klotz, Douglas County Deputy of Elections Sheri Davis and former Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith, presented the Board of Education with an award from the National Association of Secretaries of State. It recognizes DCSD’s role in the program, which will provide 37 student election judges this year, as well as the facilities to hold the county’s polling locations. Secretaries of State from across the country only have the ability to give five of these awards a year and they must be approved by the national organization.
“I am here to tell your citizens what an extraordinary job the Douglas County School District does in supporting the elections process,” Williams said. “Douglas County [School District] does something extraordinary. Douglas County [School District] not only allows the Clerk and the citizens to use its schools on Election Day, but you do it in a way that maximizes the citizens’ ability to participate in our republic.”
Williams says that, unfortunately, is not always the case with school districts or even the state’s universities.
“There was a clerk that was trying to put in a ballot drop box [at a state college]. It wasn’t inside [a building] and it didn’t affect their schedule, but the response they got was, ‘well that is not part of our mission.’ I am here to say thank you for recognizing that it is part of your mission both for the citizens and the students,” Williams said.
As Arrowsmith explained, the partnership between DCSD and the Clerk and Recorder’s Office came out of the 2006 election. As you may remember, voters were forced to stand in long lines to cast their ballots. A committee was formed to review the election and to come up with recommendations.
“Sometimes out of adversity, really good things happen. As I review what happened in the past it was really quite miraculous. Everything fell in place and everyone was on board and cooperated,” Arrowsmith said.
Realizing that there was a need for good, reliable polling stations, Arrowsmith and his staff approached then DCSD Superintendent Jim Christiansen about possibly using the schools.
“I said to Jim, ‘you know there are a lot of taxpayers in Douglas County who no longer have school-aged children. Wouldn’t it be a great use of schools to show – here is another use for these wonderful facilities?' I think Jim was already sold on the idea,” Arrowsmith recalled.
Ever since that time, the District has placed one of its teacher professional development days on Election Day, allowing the Clerk and Recorder to have full access to DCSD neighborhood schools and the ability for high school students to participate as election judges.
“It is my pet project and one I am most proud of. It exhibits the extraordinary partnership we have forged with the School District and it is a great way for the schools to demonstrate to the public a valuable use of taxpayer dollars,” Davis said.
The result has been extraordinary. The students get a first-hand view into the elections process, volunteer hours towards graduation and the Clerk and Recorder’s Office makes a donation for each student to the student organization of their choice. To date, nearly $57,000 has been given to everything from school newspapers, drama clubs, and athletic teams.
WATCH: DCSD students serve as election judges during the 2012 election
Klotz says he is looking forward to working with the students during the upcoming Election Day, but unlike his staff they won’t have to stay up until the wee hours of the evening counting ballots.
“Unfortunately, the way that the ballots are coming in, we may have to dismiss them before their curfew this year,” Klotz said.