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Become An Election Judge – Poll Worker Now

Become An Election Judge - Poll Worker Now

In March (2024), Will and I served as an election judge/poll worker here in Cook County. It was surprisingly enjoyable, even though it was one of the longest days I’ve had in a long time. I spent nearly sixteen hours at the polling place, from 5 am to after 9 pm. Surprisingly, for the most part, the time flew by!

Applying to Be an Election Judge/Poll Worker

I truly enjoyed my experience and would love to do it again. That’s why we’ve already signed up for the November election!

My neighbor is an election judge, and she told me about it. What I didn’t know is that it pays. Also, you don’t have to be old enough to vote either. If your kids are under 18, they need a good GPA and their principal’s permission.

Each precinct needs FOUR—FIVE election judges/poll workers to run optimally. We were understaffed, and we had two—Will and I. And it was our first time. Our location had multiple precincts in it, and the guy across from us — he was the only person who showed up! The other gentleman, who was supposed to assist us, went to help him once he realized we had everything under control. As you can see, Cook County is desperate for more poll workers!

When you apply to be an election judge or poll worker, you can specify the areas where you want to serve. I was relieved to be assigned to a precinct close to my house that I’m familiar with, and I was glad that Will was also assigned to the same precinct, especially since he didn’t have his driver’s license.

Working as an Election Judge/Poll Worker

Before you could work as an election judge or poll worker, you had to attend an afternoon training session. There was one local to us, and Will and I went on a day he had off of school. They taught us how to use all the equipment, and honestly, we learned how damn secure everything is.

It didn’t take long before I felt I got the hang of it all. Of course, there were new situations to navigate throughout the day, such as new voter registrations, name and address changes, and handling mail-in ballots. For the most part, people were nice. It also helped I think that I did say this was our first election as judges when we were a little slow at doing things. It’s slightly terrifying because you don’t want to screw anything up. There are checks and balances built in, so everything must match at the end of the night. There’s a learning curve that no handbook or training can fully prepare you for. However, the two times I had to call Election Central – I had no other option because they had to reset something on their end. Otherwise, I was able to figure out and deal with it all.

Depending on where you are an election judge/poll worker, you can sometimes get in the night before. There is a set of steps you can do the night before, so you have less to do in the morning. However, not all places will allow you in the day before. But for the most part, setting up the polls was a sink-or-swim situation. You must get there by 5 am, have certain computers up and running by 5:15 am, and have the polls open to voters at 6 am. And yes, people will be ready at 6 am to vote.

Remember those checks and balances I mentioned? There are so many of them, and we had to record everything. Each seal used to secure certain cases had a unique number that had to match precisely. Whenever we broke a seal, we documented it and saved the broken seal.

Closing The Polls

The polls close at 7 p.m. Anyone in line at that time is guaranteed the right to vote. At 7 p.m., we still had people voting in their booths. Several people also walked in right at 7 p.m., and they were allowed to vote. After closing the polls, we didn’t get home until after 9 p.m., and this was just for the primaries!

After the polls close, election judges/poll workers submit the precinct’s election results. While most of this process is electronic, judges/poll workers must manually count all write-in votes and follow a specific protocol for those ballots. Additionally, there is substantial paperwork to complete, with numerous documents to fill out and sign by multiple people. The judges/poll workers also dismantle the booths and pack everything into boxes.

Once you finish your poll closing duties, two election judges (one Democrat and one Republican) must take all the essential things to the receiving center (there is a list to follow to know what to bring). Since it was just me and Will, we both went. We arrived to find a line, and everything we turned in was audited.

As an election judge, you must ensure every voter has a pleasant experience. Whether assisting older adults or the physically impaired or simply smiling and maintaining positive energy, every action matters. If you make it a pleasant experience, people will return to vote. I got several compliments about how nice we were, so that was nice to hear.

Tips for Voters on Election Day

  1. Register to vote. But even if you don’t get a chance before the election, Illinois is a state where you can register on the same day.
  2. Be nice. The election judges and poll workers are just volunteers and trying to do our best. I had to bite my tongue when one guy started yelling at my kid because he wasn’t going “fast enough” for that dude. Also, yelling at me will not make me work any faster. If anything, I may go even slower.
  3. Vote early. Here in Illinois, you can mail in your vote for any reason (and if you are an election judge or poll worker, you must mail in your vote to vote). That being said, our busiest times were between 6-8 am and 4-7 pm.

If you want to give back on Election Day but can’t commit to the long shift, consider surprising your precinct with coffee, soda, donuts, or snacks! They will appreciate it more than you know!

Tips for Election Judges on Election Day

  1. Bring something to each and drink. Thank God for DoorDash. Because we were so short-handed, we couldn’t leave even though we were supposed to get a lunch break. Next time, I will pack a small cooler with drinks and snacks if it happens again.
  2. Dress comfortably, especially your shoes. It’s a long day. Because I am always cold, I brought an extra sweater, which ended up being my saving grace.
  3. Bring lip balm. I know. It’s a weird one, but the primary was in March. Between the heat kicking on and off and the amount of talking we were doing, my lips were getting dry and cracked.
  4. Packing Advil wouldn’t hurt, either. Remember, it’s a long day.

Election Judge/Poll Worker FAQS

What does an election judge/poll worker do?

Election judges work together to ensure the polling place runs efficiently and voters receive proper assistance.

Do election judges/poll workers get paid?

Yes! You’ll receive $250 for serving on Election Day and extra if you take on additional duties.

When do election judges/poll workers get paid?

4-6 weeks after Election Day

What is a Student Election Judge?

How do I apply to be an election judge/poll worker in Cook County?

Visit this page to find the application and learn more about becoming an election judge!

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Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin

In April 2006, Lisa began blogging to stay connected with distant relatives and friends. As she delved into blogging, she discovered the potential to assist others by sharing her experiences. Lisa has actively engaged in numerous exclusive media ventures. Notable among these are her participation in events such as the Sony Mommy Bloggers Event, the Pampers Mommy Bloggers Event, the Epson Event in Chicago, the Stouffers Event, a memorable yacht excursion with Lands End, collaborations with 1-800-Baskets, an exclusive tour for bloggers by Mrs. Prindable’s, partnerships with Hallmark, PopCap games, Chicago Cubs Mastercard Priceless Events, and Rug Doctor. In addition, she has collaborated with Nutrisystem on a weight loss initiative, teamed up with Buick and Chevy, and served as a brand ambassador for Sprint. Lisa's collaboration portfolio also extends to Disney, where she has participated in press trips for significant movies such as Frozen, Guardians of the Galaxy, McFarland USA, The Good Dinosaur, The BFG, and Cars 3. Notably, for projects like Frozen, The BFG, and Cars 3, she was granted the privilege of walking the red carpet and conducting interviews with celebrities. The impact of Lisa's blog has gained recognition, with The New York Times referencing her content. Moreover, she has been featured in interviews by respected publications such as the Southtown Star, The Chicago Sun Times, and inside.View Author posts

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