Primary election drawing in more young blood

Positions overseeing voting process are filled by youths

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As a joke, the parents of David Chancellor had decided last fall that they would write in the Giant Rubber Duck for elections judge, a little-known but critical position that oversees the reams of paperwork, machines and election staff at polls on election days.

Then, as a joke, they decided to write in their 26-year-old son, a marketing director for a pharmaceutical company, instead. To his surprise and theirs, he won.

Mr. Chancellor is one of the youngest election judges, supervising voters at the fire station on Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill. But most of his board -- a pair of clerks and inspectors who work under him -- is even younger, recruited from his alma mater, Winchester Thurston School.

On Tuesday, 17-year-old Justin Hare, a junior who had to get parental permission to serve on the board, sat alongside Kayla Goldstein, an 18-year-old senior who just voted in her first election. Benjamin Kostella, 18, was eligible to vote in this election but decided to forgo it because he felt he didn't know enough about the candidates.

Mr. Chancellor was able to recruit them for his election staff because there were no candidates on the ballot for the jobs.

The eldest in the group was veteran Peter Dworkin, 66, who served as election judge for a decade before retiring.

Mr. Dworkin is a well-known figure at the polling place, where voting machines share space with a giant firetruck and hung-up firefighter suits. The mayor's chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, walked in shortly before 8 p.m. to vote and greeted him.

"Weren't you supposed to retire 10 years ago?" he asked.

Mr. Dworkin laughed.

"I think it's magnificent," Mr. Dworkin said of the enthusiastic -- if not exhausted -- teens. "If I weren't here, this would be the youngest board going."

"I lend gravitas," he added with a laugh.

Ms. Goldstein relished being a part of voters' election day, attempting to turn what can seem like a boring civic chore into an engaging experience.

"I'm a people person," she said, so she did her best to greet people warmly and ask them how their day was going. "What I was doing actually affected people."

And Tuesday also marked an important foray into adulthood, the day she cast her very first ballot. It was the first time she felt her voice was being heard and it didn't matter that she was only a teenager.

"I actually got to use my voice," she said. "I'm in there with everyone else."


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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