Lisbon High School senior Helena Kay, 17, stands in the gym Tuesday at Lisbon High School while helping residents register to vote, determine their ward and feed ballots into voting machines. Kay was one of the youngest poll workers in Maine on Election Day. Vanessa Paolella/Sun Journal

LISBON — At 17, Helena Kay is too young to vote. But that didn’t stop her from getting involved with the midterm elections.

As a poll worker, Kay helped Lisbon residents register to vote, determine their ward and feed ballots into voting machines on Tuesday. And when her 18-year-old friends came into the Lisbon High School gym to cast their ballots, she cheered them on.

“I might not be able to vote yet, but I can still go and help make sure my friends are informed,” said the Lisbon High School senior.

Kay hasn’t always been interested in politics. Earlier this summer, she was invited to attend Dirigo Girls’ State, a program run by the American Legion Auxiliary to teach young people about civic engagement. It opened her eyes to the importance of being an informed voter, she said.

In the program, which holds mock elections with participants, Kay said she thought she might run for School Committee. Ultimately, she ended up becoming a part of the governor’s cabinet.

“(The program) really just put into perspective that we could be doing so much, but no one is,” she said.


Town Clerk Lisa Ward said she was excited when Kay approached her about preregistering to vote during the summer when she was still 16 years old. In Maine, teens can preregister to vote at age 16.

“Not a lot of students know they can preregister to vote,” Ward said.

When Kay asked about helping out with the election, Ward hired her for the job. Throughout the day, Ward directed Kay to a number of different jobs to allow her to see the range of jobs necessary to run the elections. And like the other poll workers, Kay will get paid for her time.

Kay, who is also president of the high school Key Club and a member of the Student Voice Committee, said she often hears people complain about issues, but take no steps to drive change.

For years, students have complained about the no-hats policy in school, she said. This year, she and other members of the Student Voice Committee pushed the School Committee to modify the dress code to allow hats in the high school and relax the restrictions on shirt length.

She believes it’s important to encourage young people to vote and do their own research, not just vote the way their parents vote. With the internet and social media, she said young people have the tools they need to become active in the election process.

Kay plans to attend college after graduating and study environmental science and possibly communications. In the future, she sees herself speaking to legislatures and other government officials to advocate for environmental policy changes.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.