At a mock election Thursday at Rolling Meadows High School, Cook County Clerk David Orr released data indicating unprecedented involvement by young people in the upcoming Presidential Election.
"We received more than twice as many applications from suburban juniors and seniors wanting to be election judges on Nov. 4 as we did for the February Primary-and from three times as many schools," Clerk Orr said. "Teenagers not yet 18 may not be able to vote, but they want to participate in this historic election."
Orr noted voter registration among young people has also surged. Voters ages 18 to 24 have climbed to 10 percent of suburban Cook County's electorate, compared to 8 percent in the 2004 Presidential Election.
Judge applications came from students throughout suburban Cook County, with at least one student applying from 94 different high schools. In the primary, 32 high schools had at least one student work as an election judge.
The most applications came from Loyola Academy (133), Leyden East (114), New Trier (94), Palatine (92), Schaumburg (94), Fremd (79) and Hillcrest (78).
Nearly 70 Rolling Meadows High School students applied to be election judges. Rolling Meadows participated in the Clerk's other Teen Democracy programs, including a deputy registrar training, a voter registration drive, a Facebook group called "YOUth Can Make a Difference," and Thursday's mock election. Social science teacher Pat Thorburn and his students also organized a mock debate and a mock voter registration drive for students too young to vote.
"Our students are really energized by this year's election," Thorburn said. "We are thrilled to provide them the opportunities to better understand the democratic process."
Thursday's mock election is one of 25 the League of Women Voters of Illinois is conducting this week at suburban Cook County high schools. Ballots and equipment are provided by the Clerk's office.
"It's the first time we've done mock elections on such a wide scale with real voting equipment, thanks to cooperation from the Clerk's office," said Paula Lawson, president of the LWV of Illinois. "I believe exposing young people to voting will encourage them to participate in elections as adults."
Clerk Orr first introduced an election judge program for high school seniors in 1999. Legislation promoted by Orr and signed into law in November 2007 extended the program to juniors. Student judges have the same responsibilities of adult judges, such as signing in voters and opening the polls.
"These students will literally make democracy work on Nov. 4," Orr said.
Students will also play an integral role in the election process in February and April 2009, when students will again serve as judges.
High school student judge participation and youth voter registration
2008 General Election
- 1,720 student judge applications
- 94 schools participating in high school judge program
- 10% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook County ages 18-24
- 15% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook ages 25-34
- 25% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook ages 18-34
2008 Primary Election
- 642 student judge applications
- 32 schools participating in high school judge program
2004 General Election
- 8% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook County ages 18-24
- 12% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook ages 25-34
- 20% of all voter registrations in suburban Cook ages 18-34