The Citizen of the Year Award is named in honor of NCoC’s long-time Chairman, Joseph H. Kanter. It aims to recognize the extraordinary contributions of a private citizen in furthering the cause of civic engagement and democratic practice.


The 2020 Citizen of the Year is First-Time Pollworkers!

As COVID-19 spread, the prospect of a critical shortage of poll workers throughout the nation risked every voter’s ability to safely and easily cast a ballot. In order to avoid polling place closures and long waiting lines on Election Day, hundreds of thousands of young and first-time poll workers stepped up to ensure the health of their communities and of our democracy. 

Here are a few first-time poll worker profiles who will receive the award on behalf of these election heroes:

Michael Uriarte signed up as poll worker via Power the Polls for the first time this year in Fairfax County, Virginia as a bilingual poll worker. He feels very passionate about language not being a barrier when it comes to voting, and was honored to get to help people who needed guidance in Spanish. 

Varun Rajaram is a student at UT-Austin ran his own polling place, staffed by students he had recruited, and was able to help a bunch of students get the right ID and come back to vote rather than being turned away!

Zarai Aquino served as a Campus Compact recruiter this summer at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, recruiting peers to serve as poll workers. She also served as a first-time poll worker herself.

Joshua Medley, a student leader with LeadMN in Minnesota, heard about the need for young people to work the polls through his college and on Instagram. He served as a poll worker in the primaries and in the general.

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Previous Citizen of the Year Award Winners

The 2019 Citizen of the Year was Desmond Meade, President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. 

The 2018 Citizen of the Year was G. S. “Mack” McCarter, Founder and Coordinator of Community Renewal International.

The 2017 Citizen of the Year was Robert Putnam, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University.

The 2016 Citizen of the Year was Arthur Dean, Chairman and CEO of Community Anti Drug Coalitions of America.

The 2012 Citizen of the Year was Jack Miller, founder and former President and CEO of Quill Corporation.

The 2011 Citizen of the Year was Jean and Steve Case.

The 2010 Citizen of the Year was Rick Stengel, Managing Editor, TIME Magazine.

The 2008 Citizen of the Year was Eugene Lang, Founder of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

The 2007 Citizen of the Year was Ray Chambers, World Health Organization Ambassador for Global Strategy

The 2006 Citizen of the Year was Israsema Salcido.

The 2005 Citizen of the Year was Congressman Lee Hamilton.

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