By Jennifer Wright
This year, many students treated November 8th as a day to sleep in. For the students in US History Teacher’s Diana Laufenberg’s classes, however, it was much more. Each junior in her classes visited their local polling place and interviewed voters to gain insight about the knowledge and experience of the voter.
The results of the election are up and that of course is the main event but some other interesting things also took place on November 8th. Junior Sam Lovett-Perkins said, “I actually ran into a council woman [Cindy Bass] who was just saying hi to voters at the polls.”
In previous years, the assignment has gotten several students into controversial situations. In the Presidential election of 2008 students in Laufenberg’s class were hassled for attempting to take photos and interviews at the polls in their area.
“Some polling places were really not keen with kids having recording devices or people not valid voters being anywhere near the polling places because it was so chaotic,” Laufenberg said.
Laufenberg gives her contact information to everyone in the class so they can contact her with any questions or issues. She related the story about a student in her class who participated in the 2008 election.“He calls me in the morning and is like ‘Uh, so I was at a polling place and they asked me to leave’. …They basically told him he didn’t have the right to video or record.”
This got the class and Laufenberg wondering what to do. She called in to a representative at City Hall as well as searched through the city statues for some specific language stating this. Turns out, there was nothing making this type of video recording illegal. “We were right. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. I told all the kids if you get hassled at all, just walk way.”
Many of the interviews from this year, videos and recordings, live on SLA’s public webpage for public consumption. Laufenberg is working on putting links to each on a map so one could click on the polling places around Philly and see the interviews. She also got in contact with teachers on Twitter around the country and encouraged them to do the same project. A classroom in New York did the same project as the SLA juniors. She hopes to expand this in the future.
As Junior Sophia Henniger put it, “Hearing it from an actual person was a good experience because it helped me remember that people should form their own opinions about elections and voting.”
This year the feeling toward the project was positive from people at the polls. As opposed to other years, the volunteers and the voters reacted well to the questions. “We got many compliments on how interesting the project was,” said Perkins
This time next year will be the next Presidential election and some of the students doing this project this year will be able to vote. The hope is that they learned something this year to put into action for November 2012.