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    Thursday, February 29, 2024

    St. Michael students set up Stonington polling location

    Eight-grade students from St. Michael School, clockwise from lower left, Alexandra Placencia, Fiona Doyle, Molly Niedbala and Keira Freitas set up a voting booth at the District 3 polling place for the Town of Stonington at Saint Michael Church in Pawcatuck on Monday, November 7, 2022.(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Jack Balestracci makes sure the legs are stable on a voting booth as eighth-grade students from St. Michael School help set up the District 3 polling place for the Town of Stonington at Saint Michael Church in Pawcatuck on Monday, November 7, 2022.(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The moderator for District 3 polls in Stonington, Jamie Ravenelle, shows a ballot to eighth-grade students from St. Michael School as they help set up polling equipment at Saint Michael Church in Pawcatuck on Monday, November 7, 2022.(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Natalia Caradimos, center, helps fellow students set up a voting booth as eighth-grade students from St. Michael School help set up the District 3 polling place for the Town of Stonington at Saint Michael Church in Pawcatuck on Monday, November 7, 2022.(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The moderator for the District 3 polls in Stonington, Jamie Ravenelle, shows a ballot to eighth-grade students from St. Michael School as they help set up at Saint Michael Church in Pawcatuck on Monday, November 7, 2022.(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stonington ―Students from St. Michael School got a civics lesson Monday as they helped set up the town’s District 3 polling place.

    Under the direction of poll Moderator Jamie Ravenelle, the eighth graders spent the early afternoon turning the basement of St. Michael Church in Pawcatuck into the polling station.

    “I think it’s pretty cool we get to help out, because even though we can’t vote yet, we’re still participating, and helping set up and helping make sure people’s votes stay safe,” said student Dahlyla Belanger.

    The students set up the privacy stations and tables following the specifics Ravenelle laid out for them, and even marked off a 75-foot perimeter from the church door to denote the point beyond which no campaigning is allowed.

    First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough explained this is the first time the church will be used as a polling place as the town needed to add a new polling location due to redistricting.

    Ravenelle thanked the students for their help and then gave them an overview of the process of voting, from registering voters and checking them in, to filling out a ballot and getting it counted.

    Eighth grader AJ Teixeira explained that he and his classmates learned, “how the voting room is set up, how voting works, the process, and the rules and instructions,” though he said he found the rules most interesting.

    Ravenelle also explained a little about election security.

    “Every single election, I know how many ballots are on the table, how many ballots have been given out to people, and how many have been fed through that (vote tabulating) machine,” he said. “We know where every ballot is the whole time.”

    The students listened to his explanations and peppered him with questions such as if the line to vote would be out the door, if he had to take a test to be a moderator and how many people would vote at the church.

    He answered that the line could be out the door, but it would move faster than the students imagined, that he did have to take a test given offered by the Secretary of the State’s Office and he guessed the poll that the students had set up would see about 1,500 voters between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday.

    Other students asked him if ever gets tired, to which he chuckled, and exaggeratedly said, “No. I never get tired.”

    Ravenelle told the group that when they turn 18, they can register to vote, and that they should.

    “Why?” asked, student Keira Freitas.

    “That’s a huge question,” Ravenelle replied, before adding, “because you live in a democracy, and you want to have a say in the leadership of the country you live in.”

    When asked what she took away from his response, she said, “you should vote because it’s your right, and basically your freedom.”

    Frietas said of the experience, “I thought it was cool to see how it all works, and it teaches us what we can do in the future, and how to do it.”

    Editor’s note: This version corrects the name of student Jack Balestracci in a photo caption.

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