Penn students, staff work the polls on primary day

Penn’s campus played host to eight polling places where students and community members cast their ballots, with a team of trained poll workers keeping the action running smoothly.

A collection of folded Penn T-shirts and sheets of "I voted" stickers in different languages are arranged on a table.
Tuesday was primary day in Pennsylvania, and Penn’s campus played host to three polling places where students and the community could cast their ballots.

Tuesday was primary day in Pennsylvania, and, although the nominees for the U.S. presidential election are already locked in, voters got a chance to weigh in on a competitive attorney general race as well as congressional and state races. 

Penn’s campus hosts polling places for eight voting divisions in Ward 27, serving voter-registered students and community residents. Houston Hall, Civic House, and the ARCH serve as the designated polling locations. And keeping the action running smoothly were the trained poll workers, mostly Penn students, staff, alumni, and neighbors. This year, in addition to the usual bagels in the morning and pizza in the evening, Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs (OGCA) provided snack bags to poll workers to thank them for their long day of service.

Election Day can be a long one for poll workers, often arriving around 6 a.m. and staying sometimes as late as 9 p.m., but it also can be rewarding, says Meredith Wooten. Wooten is director of the Graduate Student Center and has been working the polls at Penn since 2020. 

“During the pandemic, there was a real concern about the integrity of voting and also the ability to get people to work the polls because there was a lot of concern about health and safety, so I volunteered,” she says. It was such a positive experience; she’s kept it up. 

“Civic engagement is so important, and working at the polls is a great way to support the democratic process on campus,” she says. 

Three undergraduates working the polls on Tuesday spoke with Penn Today to share what inspires them to give up a day of their time to democracy.

Lucy Rupertus sits on stairs next to an ornate wooden carved banister inside the ARCH building on Penn's campus.
Lucy Rupertus, a first-year political science major from Philadelphia, says she was inspired to be a poll worker after seeing her sister’s work registering people to vote all over the country.

Lucy Rupertus is a first-year political science major from Philadelphia who spent her inaugural primary day as a poll worker on Tuesday. Her voter-registration efforts with the OGCA inspired her to come out to work at the polls.

“You spend all year getting people registered to vote and helping to put up signage on campus to encourage people to come out, and this is an opportunity to see the fruits of our labor,” she says. 

She cites her sister’s work for an organization called Poll Hero throughout high school as the inspiration for civic work.

“She helped get people registered across the nation, and she was so passionate about it that it definitely has influenced me a lot,” Rupertus says.

Penn fourth-year Daisy Arizmendi poses near a stone fireplace inside a sitting room at The ARCH building on Penn's campus.
Daisy Arizmendi, a fourth-year nursing student from Chicago, works the polls to feel more a part of the election cycle. 

Daisy Arizmendi, a nursing fourth-year from Chicago, had worked the polls in her hometown when she was a high school student, but this was also a first experience as a poll worker in Philadelphia. With the pandemic hitting as she arrived at Penn and then time spent studying abroad at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Arizmendi hadn’t had the chance to work the polls again until this year. 

It was important to be a poll worker her last semester, she says, because she loves feeling a part of the election cycle.

Her nursing studies at Penn have impacted her interest in politics and policy, Arizemendi says. “I learned throughout nursing school how politics really does play into health care, and that’s very important to me as a future nurse,” she says.

Sophmore Jane Kinney smiles inside a sitting room at The ARCH building on Penn's campus.
Jane Kinney, a second-year political science major from Haddonfield, New Jersey, says working at the polls was a nice culmination of her work with the Office of Government & Community Affairs to “get out the vote” over the past few months. 

Jane Kinney, a second-year from Haddonfield, New Jersey, volunteered with Penn Leads the Vote her first year at Penn. This was her second experience as a poll worker. 

Kinney says she sees working at the polls as the culmination of the work she did in her role as an intern with the OGCA, from putting together materials to working on a get-out-the-vote effort. 

“It’s nice to be here on the actual day; it’s a chance to be a part of the civic process and see all that work play out in the real world,” she says.

As a political science and environmental studies double major, Kinney says policy has a lot of implications for solving issues that she’s passionate about, such as the climate crisis.

“I appreciate the impact that government can have,” she says.