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Thomas Jefferson high schoolers work at polling places in Pennsylvania primary

Pittsburgh-area high schoolers work at polling places in Pennsylvania primary
Pittsburgh-area high schoolers work at polling places in Pennsylvania primary 01:55

JEFFERSON HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) -- Some aren't even old enough to vote, but stationed at polling places in the South Hills and Mon Valley, a group of Thomas Jefferson High School students is helping voters fulfill their civic duty.

Instead of the school bell, the sound of birds chirping outside the Jefferson Hills District 7 polling place signaled the polls were open and class was in session.

"We have to be here at 6 a.m. and I'm working the full day so, I'll be here until 9 p.m.," said senior Emerson Dorfner. 

A handful of Thomas Jefferson 11th and 12th graders worked the polls on Tuesday, getting to see people exercise their right to vote right in front of their eyes.

"Things that we've learned about in my class and sort of seeing the voter turnout and the types of the demographics that you see in different areas, and the age ranges of people -- just kind of seeing how all of that correlates in real life than just studying examples," said junior Jeremy Thompson.

Recent data from the Civics Center, a national organization working to get young people to the polls, shows that in Allegheny County, only about 29% percent of eligible high schoolers are registered to vote. West Jefferson Hills School District, though, is near the top of the list for the most registered students.

"I've always been so excited to vote when I was finally able to, I registered as soon as I was 18 and today was my first time voting," Dorfner said. 

The county's student poll worker program isn't just putting students in the center of democracy, it's helping to ensure its future.

"With an aging population, we are losing poll workers," said Susan Laczko, the judge of elections in Jefferson Hills District 2. 

And in the process, it's creating strong advocates for this constitutional right.

"I've been trying to tell people at school, like, 'hey, make sure you register to vote,'" Dorfner said. 

"It's something that anybody who has a chance to at some point in their life should come in and participate and volunteer and just get to see the process first hand or even if they can't, just make sure you're voting," Thompson said. 

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