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.


Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely  catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, we’d be breaking the Stay Home WuFlu rules unless we were doing so virtually like Scott Adams does daily.

Last week because I work for the Census and was an Election Judge, I was out more than most. We used lots of disinfectant and kept our distance, but I did Census recruiting at a nearby Early Voting site.

I worked with such a wagamama person on Election Day. Since we just had 3 judges rather than the planned 5 it was a test of patience. This woman was convinced the moving of the polling place from her usual spot at a retirement community (for the very wealthy where she admits she was spoiled with three free meals she could order from the menu) would be a disaster. She didn’t come to set up the night before as required, but spent two and a half hours calling county employees and the warehouse just to calm her own nerves and wasn’t needed. The woman wore headphones the entire day, complained to voters about how she was put out and made herself a general nuisance to the management of the Park District where we wound up and to the fellow judges in our precinct and the two other precincts that she made the management move into a different room because there’d be a disaster if we were all together. It’s a shame some people can’t be cooperative and pleasant during an emergency. I was stunned when she made voters wait while she talked with her refrigerator repairman. They seemed to be as well. It was a long day as we started at 5 am and finished around 9 pm. But I’m still glad I pitched in as judges are really needed.

After Tuesday, I just recruited by putting yard signs out along public areas where we need applicants. I was in my car and hopped out to put up signs. It was nice to be able to move around and get work done.

Friday afternoon we were still to work, but that afternoon we got an email saying recruitment efforts were to be suspended. Then Saturday I received a call saying we could work from home planning and researching. I’ve got a few ideas, but I’m not sure how many hours I can do meaningful work. I believe some people are going into the office but I’m happy to get the work.

During the quarantine, I’ve been scrubbing and organizing. I did finish watching Death on the Nile, which I listened to as an audio book. The book was okay, as was the movie, though I’d say there was a lot of over-acting in the film. While Agatha Christie set the standard for mystery writing in many ways, even she got tired of Hercule Poirot, whom she grew to find pompous. Also, this was at least her second book where a group of people all with a motive find themselves on a vehicle.


I’m now listening to David Mamet’s Chicago as an audio book. Since Mamet is known for the cadence of dialogue in his plays and films, and that dialogue in this novel has his style, I highly recommend listening rather than reading this book. The narrator has the right cadence and tone to capture Mamet’s style.

I think Adam Corolla had offered some wisdom on approaching the quarantine, which can get on our nerves. He says that prisoners often say, “If you don’t do the time, the time will do you.” In other words, use your time wisely. In addition to working half days, I’ll be  cleaning and organizing my kitchen and basement a bit each day and starting a new writing project. Well, resuming one. I have a historical drama in mind and I’m delighted that I just found my primary resource, which I’ve been hunting for for the last 2 days.

I’m also watching Hillsdale College’s online course on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. What I really like is how the professor shares earlier documents that influenced the creation of these documents.

Wagamama = Japanese for difficult, irritating

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely  catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I went to the funeral of one of my parents’ good friends. This woman was a true leader in the community who connected with people, young and old, and was very involved in charitable work. While it was a sad occasion, it was a beautiful tribute to a fine lady.

I believe I’ve drawn the short straw when it comes to my election judge team. What complainers! We were scheduled to work at a poll located in a senior living community. Given the WuFlu, it’s been moved to the Park District and we’ll share a room with two other precincts. Two of these people are pitching a fit. They’ve called me numerous times to complain, They’ve hassled the County Clerk workers and the Park District folks. Evidently, at the senior living community they were given breakfast, lunch and dinner. Obviously, a park district doesn’t serve meals. What’s more they want a window that opens. Well, this building doesn’t have that. One woman says it’ll be a disaster and she insisted we get a different room. So we were offered a room on the second floor, which does have an elevator. Well, “SC” asserts that this elevator is too far from the room. There’s no satisfying her. She insisted we meet on Friday night (rather than the usual Monday night) to check that all our supplies have been delivered. I thought she meant we’d do some preliminary set up too. No. So I spent an hour with “SC,” hearing her kvetch as she noted what we were missing. She couldn’t believe that the County workers weren’t picking up the phone at 6pm on Friday. I didn’t think they’d be in. I pray my other team members are more sensible.

I believe that it’s best to just do what needs to be done and not ask too much from people who’re doing their best under the circumstances.

I’ve been recruiting at an Early Voting site and getting good results. There are lots of civically minded people at this village hall and many parents are with their kids who are back home due to the WuFlu.

On Thursday I recruited with a colleague at Willow Creek Church’s Care Center. Wow! The church sits on about 300 acres. They had a job fair with 30 employers and beforehand they offered resume reviews, coaching on how to get the most out of a job fair, a work wardrobe closet where you could get professional clothing, a photographer taking headshots for people’s LinkedIn profiles. They thought of everything.

While I believe in caution, I think we’ve gone to far in canceling mass. Let people decide for themselves. Sadly, few Catholic churches are packed on Sunday anyway. It’s easy to sit a distance away from people where I go. I pray the WuFlu soon is under control so that life can return to normal. I refuse to live in fear, but with so many placed shuttered it’s a hard to live a normal life.

What was COVID-18 or COVID-17 like?