The Gallatin County Commission did well in voting to move the Precinct 63B polling location to Shroyer Gym. However, commissioners still have a responsibility to continue helping bridge the gap between millennials and their government. They should take note from ASMSU President Levi Birky, who ended his public comment at the commission meeting Tuesday, Feb. 24 with a reminder of his non-partisan duty to constituents: “I do what’s best for the students I represent.”
The commission has taken a crucial step in uniting college students with local community government. They made it clear at the meeting that they didn’t view this vote as a “first step,” but instead as a test run, and explicitly stated that they had no intention of moving the other seven polling locations from Hope Lutheran Church (2152 Graf St.) two miles south of MSU via 19th Ave.
While their assertion that this does not constitute a “first step” regarding community polling locations was premature, the commissioners did find a way to work with the university for positive change. Regardless of whether Shroyer Gym ends up serving Gallatin County Precinct 63B better than Hoper Lutheran Church, students did step up and negotiate with the local community government to ensure their voices were heard.
Commissioners expressed one final concern about moving the polling location: election judges. Election judges are local citizens who are trained to officiate polling in local precincts. The Elections Office aims to train around 400 people county-wide, but typically only around 200 people actually show up to serve as election judges because people begin training before realizing how complicated the process is. The information box at right details the process of becoming an election judge in Gallatin County. When fewer polling locations are consolidated, election judges are divided between more locations.
President Waded Cruzado set a precedent for leadership after the meeting, stating that she planned to volunteer as an election judge in order to help with the shortage. Cruzado is sacrificing one of her few days off in support of a student cause; leaders like Cruzado are both commendable and essential for young voters who have been systematically marginalized in Gallatin County. Her decision is a massive step in the right direction for a young generation that has been marginalized instead of mentored by their elders.
County Commissioners later challenged students to know their responsibilities when registering to vote, but I’d like to challenge the county commissioners to know what their responsibilities are as elected representatives.
First-time voters face huge obstacles including antiquated paper voter registration, the overwhelming amount of misinformation available and a troublesome generational disconnect. Joining the conversation of democracy isn’t easy, and it is the duty of individuals who understand democracy and the complex issues in society to help make the transition easier.
The commissioners have done well thus far in listening to young people’s discontent with polling locations. Moving forward, it is certainly their responsibility to continue providing a seat at the table for all people, even the young ones.
Students championed positive change regarding this issue, getting the closest precinct to campus moved to a polling location at Shroyer Gym; however, their work is far from done. County Commissioners will be even more hesitant to cooperate with students in future endeavors if students fail to turn out to vote this year.
Further, if students want to be represented more fairly in future elections, they must invest time in finding and electing candidates that represent their values. Millennials are a generation that value the truth — and it’s time to speak the truth to power. If young people truly feel they haven’t been well served by these commissioners, that will only change if they show up and vote on election day.
So yes — Commissioner Skinner — this is a first step. This is the first step in what will be the long and arduous process of reconnecting youth with their government, but it’s a process worth investing in. Young people are always worth investing in.
Election Judge Information
Election Judges are trained to officiate proper and efficient polling.
-Involvement in local government
-Pays between $8.00 and $8.50 per hour
-18 years old
-a U.S. Citizen
-registered to vote in Gallatin County
-completed Election Judge Certification, which is free and takes two hours
The next election judge training will take place April 18-22. Those interested are encouraged to contact the Gallatin County Election Department, located at 311 West Main St. in Room 210. They can also contact the Election Department at (406) 582-3060.
Information on Registering to Vote & Understanding Voting Precincts
The Montana Secretary of State provides a web database for citizens to check their voter registration status, voter registration address, location and directions to polling places, and the opportunity to sign up for absentee ballots on their website: https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/
In order to register to vote in Montana, you must be a U.S. Citizen, have a Montana address and have lived in Montana for at least 30 days prior to the next election. Registering to vote requires a single voter registration form and the last four digits of your social security number (if you don’t have a Montana driver’s license). You can mail your registration form to the Gallatin County Courthouse or deliver it in person at 311 West Main St., Room 210. Anyone can sign up for absentee ballots, and you don’t need to be registered to a political party.