"High school students in fact sometimes make up to 40 percent of the city's staff on Election Day," said Andy Pastalaniec, an assistant manager at the San Francisco Board of Elections.
For each election, Pastalaniec and his colleagues recruit between 800 and 1,200 student poll workers. He said the students who qualify tend to be tech-savvy -- a big help in the age of computerized voting machines.
Also, he said, many students are bilingual and can help polling sites that have legal mandates for language-assistance requirements.
Cong Wen is one of those students.
"I speak Mandarin and Cantonese fluently because I immigrated from China," he explained.
Noncitizens Are Poll Workers, Too
This year, Wen may find himself translating alongside another type of poll worker ineligible to vote. A new state law that took effect in January allows noncitizens to be poll workers, as long as they are legal U.S. residents.
The president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, Neal Kelley, said the noncitizens are an important new resource.
"They can supplement in areas where we can't recruit bilingual poll workers," Kelley said.
Recruiting young people is especially critical for future elections considering that the average poll worker currently is a senior citizen.
"If we can capture these young individuals early on -- this is a selfish statement from an election official standpoint -- many of them will continue on for the rest of their life volunteering at the polls," Kelley said.
The experience offers a number of incentives for high school students: They can list it on their college applications, earn extra class credit or complete their community service requirements for graduation.
Eighteen-year-old San Francisco Waldorf High School senior Liv Hughes said she and about 30 classmates are each looking forward to earning $142, the city's stipend for student poll workers.
"We're actually using it as part of our senior fundraising for our class trip at the end of the year. So each of us will turn in the money that we earn from this," Hughes said.
Seventeen-year-old Lowell High School student Allison Lee said she didn't really consider any of those bonuses when she asked her school's permission to work on Election Day. Instead, she thought about her parents.
"My parents came from China, and it's obviously not the most democratic there," Lee explained.
"It's a blessing that we're able to express ourselves the way we are here, and we have a choice in who makes decisions in government for us," she added.
Lee said she's been fascinated with elections ever since her parents took her to the polls when she was little. What she's really looking forward to is not just helping other voters, but being able to vote herself.