Clerks prepare for possible election judge shortage

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — County clerks are trying to be proactive as they prepare for the general election by troubleshooting a problem they noticed with election judges during the primary.

In March there was a shortage of election judges in several central Illinois counties. Many clerks said it was because people backed out last minute because of health concerns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are there enough election judges this time around? WCIA called the clerks in ten central Illinois counties. Out of those, seven responded [Champaign, Vermilion, Macon, Sangamon, Dewitt, Ford, Iroquois] saying they had enough to cover the polling places for the general election.

Jesse Han decided to become an election judge in Champaign County for the general election, at a time when people are being more precautious. When she cast her ballot during the primary, the election judges caught her attention. She says, “All the volunteers were people older than 60. I was just thinking, how crazy it was that they were the most at-risk, and they were the only ones volunteering.” The 25-year-old decided to fill the spot of someone who might be more health-compromised. “At first, I was definitely one of those vote by mail people. I thought I was not going to the polls, I wasn’t going in person, this is too dangerous. But I think as I found out more information about coronavirus, and that wearing a mask really does help with that, it gave me more confidence to go to the polls and serve in that way.”

County clerks across central Illinois say the lack of election judges during the primary in March was mostly because people were apprehensive to be at polling places at the start of the pandemic. Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner says, “We just had a lot of people cancel last minute. So we didn’t have as many extra election judges.” Vermilion County Election Judge Coordinator Abby Miller expressed the same thing. “I would definitely say we’ve had people be a little more weary because of COVID” says Miller.”

During the 2020 primary election, Champaign County had to close ten polling places because of a massive shortage of election judges. For the upcoming general election, Clerk Aaron Ammons says they have enough and, right now, there is no risk of polling place closures.

To prevent a repeat of the shortage, many county clerks have asked people to be on standby as backup election judges if people drop out. They are also preparing to keep them safe while at the polling locations. Iroquois County Clerk Breein Suver says, “We laminated all the ballot privacy covers and we are providing containers that used pens can go in to disinfect and sanitize. More than one person is not using the same thing twice.”

If you want to sign up to be an election judge, here is a list with contact information for county clerks in central Illinois.

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