Election Judge School

Though I’ve been a judge through two elections, I took up the DeKalb County Clerk’s invitation to attend Election Judge School yesterday.

Attendance means $20 more per election, or a grand total of $110 for a workday of approximately 15 hours, but I would have done it anyway having signed up initially thinking it was a volunteer stint! I tell you this so you understand how much it means to me that Denny Hastert helped pass the law that made election judge wages exempt from withholding. The answer, obviously, is: not much.

What we will never forget is that Denny Hastert made this the messiest, most expensive, most complicated, most difficult primary election we will ever try to get right.

Let’s talk money. According to DeKalb County’s election authority, the office of County Clerk Sharon Holmes, having the special primary on the same date as the regular primary still adds $10,000 to those expenses and the special stand-alone congressional election on March 8 will cost $100,000.

Then there’s the complication of two sets of registers, ballot styles, verification stubs, spindles and all the envelopes for spoiled ballots, provisional ballots and the like.

To top it off we are going to do a lot of explaining to voters why they can opt to vote twice. By my reckoning at least 20% of the judges still need to get a handle on this.

On the upside we have Holmes. AKA “Election Queen,” she is known to visit other states’ elections, sometimes even while on vacation. Holmes’ office joined the election authorities of four other Illinois counties in a lawsuit meant to get certain deadlines changed that simply could not be met in the short time period between the special primary and the special general–and they did, which makes lawsuits against the county from disgruntled voters or candidates less likely after the election(s). She seems to be about as on top of things as a person can get, and so are her staff. Whew.

Another piece of good news is that the county picked up 28 high schoolers as judges this cycle. These young people, as young as 17 and with permission from their parents and their school, have a rep for waking up just around the time us old folks are fading in late afternoon, and for absolute fearlessless when it comes to pressing buttons on the newfangled machines.

Lastly, there were a whole lot of “what if” questions answered and I learned how to assist voters with disabilities on our really kick-ass user-friendly ballot-marking machines.

3 thoughts on “Election Judge School”

  1. I wondered if I should recap that, and your comment confirms my instincts.
    Maybe this will help:

    If one of our U.S. senators quit, the governor would be allowed to appoint someone in his place to finish out the term because we’d still have one elected person left to represent us in the Senate. A departing congressman, on the other hand, leaves a district unrepresented in the House so by law the governor must order a special election cycle of one special primary and one special general. What can be confusing is the overlap, but the timing cannot be helped. Governor Rod has five days to figure out when these special elections should be, and another 115 days to get them done.

    The thing to remember is that the special primary and general are just about getting someone in there to finish up Denny’s term, while the regular primary and general are about filling a new two-year term beginning January 2009. Most likely we will be voting in the special primary and the regular primary on the same day in February but with two ballots, one with just the IL-14 (special/filling out the term) candidates and the other with everybody else including the IL-14 (regular/new term) candidates. Then, the victors of the special primary run in a special general in March or early April, and the victors of the regular primary go to it in the regular general in November.

    This could actually become more confusing. It’s conceivable that we end up not having exactly the same field of candidates for the special primary as we do the regular primary.

    Indeed, that’s exactly what happened: While Serra (D) and Dilger (R) are running in the regular primary for the new term of office, they were either unwilling or unable to file for the special primary to fill Denny’s remaining term. And of course, Burns (R), who shows up on both, actually dropped out of campaigning when Denny endorsed Oberweis.

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