Polling Place Problem: Old Workers

Election officials across the country are worried that as the ranks of polling place workers dwindle, there's no one in line to replace them.

The average age of those workers is 72.

So, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes, a push is in high gear to recruit young people to become the election helpers of the near future and beyond.

"It's not that old people can't function well," says Deforest Soaries of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. "It's that the older this population gets, the more necessary it is to recruit younger people who can actually supplement the people who have done it so well for so long."

So, says Hughes, election officials in places such as Orange County, California are embarking on ambitious recruitment programs in high schools, trying to persuade students that working at the polls is worth it.

They're helped by high school teachers like Dennis Eastman, who sweetens the pot by giving his students credit for working on Election Day.

"An opportunity for them to see how the whole system works for a day is vital and valuable, not only to them, but to our future discussion in class," Eastman says.

The student poll workers will get a lesson in democracy, but voters may also benefit, notes. Officials believe teenagers, who grew up in a world of cell phones and instant messaging, may be better-suited to assist confused voters - many of whom will be facing electronic voting systems for the first time.

Says Soaries: "There certainly is a techno-savvy element that comes along with the younger generation. ...My kids can program our VCR, but I still can't."
Election officials like Neal Kelley in Orange County offer sessions that include lessons on how to handle the county voting system, which gave elderly poll workers a headache in the March primary.

It's part of the pitch which seems to resonate: "He explained it to us and made it seem, like, more interesting, since technology is, like, the main thing now," oberved high school senior Julia Joseph.

So will polling places become the new "in" spot?

That, says Hughes, along with the results of the election, remains to be seen.