Residents who plan to vote in the Nov. 2 General Election may be interested in learning what that day may be like for their dedicated neighbors who will serve as election judges: They will spend 16 hours in a polling place making certain each vote is counted.
At 5 a.m. on the dark, cold morning of Feb. 2, I met four colleagues in tiny Baker Field House in precinct 7 of the Third Ward.
We were well trained and had spent an hour and a half working the previous day, so things would go smoothly. One member of our team took the lead in setting up the touch screen machines and the optical scanner.
Another judge and I helped get the judge stations organized. We recovered the small but vital voter cards that are needed for touch screen voters. The cards had slipped behind a package of paper ballots. We were ready to open by 6 a.m.
The camaraderie with the other judges and neighbors who came to vote made the time pass quickly. Giving the toddlers “I voted” stickers was a joy. I got a little insight into local affairs from talking to a fellow judge about school issues.
Many voters arrived with their choices marked on sample ballots.
In this, a primary election, only three voters asked, “Do I have to declare a party?”
There were 29 early or absentee voters, and their applications were stamped appropriately.
Driver’s licenses and registration cards were frequently offered but they were not required unless there was some question. Documents did help the first judge in line find the correct application when the voter had an unusual name.
There was a moment of confusion when a voter was very vague about which was his first and which was his last name. We could not find his application and started to call the registration verification hot line. Finally the problem was sorted out when his application was found and he was allowed to vote.
Our jobs were made easier because no one needed to vote by provisional ballot or affidavit and the machines did not suffer any serious breakdowns.
There was a slow but steady flow of voters for most of the day. Most of the voters requested a Democratic ballot. A tightly contested race for the Democratic nomination for State Representative accounted for much of the interest in the election.
By 7 p.m., when the polls were declared closed, only 109 voters out of 933 registered in our precinct had voted. The results were electronically transmitted to the Cook County Board of Elections without complication.
We dismantled the various machines and packed them along with supplies into the big blue box. Two judges took the voted ballots, tapes from the machines, memory sticks and other paraphernalia to the receiving station at the Morton Civic Center.
I was home having a bowl of ice cream by 9 p.m., having experienced democracy in action.
For information on serving as an election judge, go to http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/electionjudges.
Katy Compere Pendleton is a free lance writer and member of the League of Women Voters of Evanston.