On Election Judging

Early Voting in Cook County

For several years, whenever I’m in the US, I’ve volunteered to be an Election Judge. This year I signed up to work for the 16 day  Early Voting. I figured with the CCP virus, many of the older judges wouldn’t volunteer and I’d be needed.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, this was a marathon. I’m slowly getting my energy level back after working 12 or 13 hour days with a 15 minute lunch Monday through Friday and 9 1/2 or 10 hours on the weekend. I’m happy to serve, but I do wish we managed to get the hour lunch as promised and that the County Clerk was upfront about what the pay would be rather than keeping it a secret. I asked in training and was told that the County hadn’t decided and that when decided the rate wouldn’t be published online. I only found out via the grapevine the daily rate and I’m not sure the amount is right. It’s about 30% less than what Chicago Cook County pays.

I came to appreciate how the Early Voting point person, a retired fireman, ran things. He was gruff, but good with using good techniques like using a flashlight to get the ID scanner to work, bringing cloths and solution he got rather than the little packets of antiseptic to clean the screens, and other means of making the process smoother. I wasn’t on board with his dictum to not let people sit down unless they were elderly or disabled. He thought people mulled things over too much if they were sitting. I thought mulling was fine, but he was the boss. Some people did move a chair so I figure that problem worked itself out.

About half the team were veterans who’d worked together for years. They were definitely the inner circle. This played itself out through people who had “their” seats and jobs. Also, the point person had certain traditions like getting salmon sandwiches on Friday and Italian beef sandwiches on Saturday. When I first heard about this I thought this option was for everyone. Nope. He took orders from the inner circle and the rest of us were free to do this ourselves. (Note the inner circle did pay for their sandwiches, but the fireman got them.) Since we had 15 – 20 minutes for lunch, going out was not a real option. Week two on some occasions when I needed to run a quick errand I did take 30 minutes. 

The first week we processed an average of 825 voters and the second week it was more like 500. The moral is if you want to avoid long lines which for us went down the block and around the corner, don’t come the first week. Our last weekend and this Monday we had just over 300 voters. 

Election Judges are supposed to be non-partisan. Thus I don’t discuss politics even in whispers. Not everyone followed that principle. One convivial judge told me that she couldn’t be as friendly towards voters with Republican voting guides in their hands as she was with Democrat literature. Of course, she could, but it takes effort, which is possible. People are more than their political leanings.

In Illinois we had an amendment on the ballot which would allow the state assembly to change tax rates without a referendum. There was a lot of advertising on this issue and those in favor called it the Fair Tax amendment and argues that the increased tax would only effect billionaires.

When other states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have passed such laws, what has happened is that the first year the rich are taxed more, but as time goes on the middle class is also taxed more. 

November 3rd was a slow day in my polling place which hosted three precincts. My precinct only got 123 voters as many had voted by mail or early. 

This made for a long day. No matter how many voters come, setting up and closing down are time consuming. Each site has an Administrative Judge, who gets paid an extra $25 to retrieve the key to the voting equipment box and must contact all the team members to let them know when we’d set up. Our Administrative Judge was a total flake. He was MIA as of last Thursday. Finally he responded to my emails and asked what his role was. He dropped the ball on arranging for us to set up on Sunday. Although most of us preferred a Sunday set up, we had to set up Monday. 

Of the 5 judges only 3 showed up. We were moved to a gym at the park district. The maintenance man showed us where to go and said we could set up in any of the three sections of the gym. After we were half way though our work, a woman came in and said we had to move as they were having a game on that court. Then we’d have to move back. Although everything would be locked up after we did the needed tasks, I’m sure the County wanted us in a space that was locked up and secure, not where there was a game while no election judges. 

The 4th judge did come on time at 5 am Election Judge. Judge 5 was a no-show. We didn’t need him throughout the day but at set up and shut down phase. The Administrative Judge was half an hour late. We just have an hour to do the second stage set up and that’s tough to do in time. We were able to get the 6am voters started but it was a close call. Throughout the day this Administrative Judge was at loose ends not knowing what to do and just being useless. During shut down this Administrative Judge went and took a break. Huh? He was no where to be found. Eventually, he returned and did offer to work, but he was so aimless that he wasn’t of much help. He annoyed me by watching TV on his phone as we were closing down. 

In spite of everything, the long hours being the hardest part, I’m glad I volunteered. Many voters were very appreciative and that helped us carry on.