By Debra L. Karplus
Working as an election judge is a great way to serve your country at the local level, meet people and even earn a little spending money.
Many Illinois counties acknowledge that they badly need election judges. Though the process varies a bit per county, typically you’ll initially be expected to provide your contact information and political party preference. Most counties require you to participate in an informative training session, lasting a few hours, to learn the basics, including helping voters with a disability, and processing people who want to vote but haven’t yet registered.
Just prior to Election Day, you’ll be assigned a polling place, often in the precinct where you vote. You may work in the same polling place each election or be assigned a different spot each time.
On Election Day, you’ll be part of a team of other trained election judges; you’ll never be working alone. The country clerk’s office tries to schedule even numbers of Republican and Democratic judges per polling place, at least two per party, and more for major elections where heavy voter turnout is predicted.
Though there’s talk of making changes in the length of time a judge works on Election Day, currently the day is long; the polls usually open around 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.; a judge is expected to stay in the polling place the entire time, eating lunch and snacks during the workday.
If you agree to other duties such as setting up the polling place the night before or driving materials to election headquarters immediately after the election, you’ll earn extra pay. Also, there’s the chance to work during early voting as an election judge.
So what makes local people want to work long hours for little pay as an election judge? Here’s what a few Champaign County seniors had to say about working as an election judge. Carol Pesch of Champaign has worked as an election judge for many years and says she likes all aspects of the job, especially helping those who need a little extra help voting such as those with disabilities, first time voters, or those for whom English is not their main language. Champaign native Bari Arnote has worked many elections as a judge and really enjoys it, preferring main elections rather than primaries where a voter must declare a political party before receiving the appropriate ballot. This writer has worked at numerous elections and takes pride in being part of the process and feels especially proud to be an American each Election Day.
If you want to learn more about becoming an election judge, contact the county office where you vote.
Champaign County Clerk, 1776 E. Washington St., Urbana, (217) 384-3724
Piatt County Clerk, 101 W. Washington St., Monticello, (217) 762-4999
Ford County Clerk, 200 W. State St., Paxton, (217) 379-2721
Vermilion County Clerk, 201 N. Vermilion Ave., Danville, (217) 554-7700
Douglas County Clerk, 401 S. Center St., Tuscola, (217) 253-2352