Citizen’s guide to overseeing elections processes

Citizen’s guide to overseeing elections processes

Illinoisans can work elections through numerous positions from election judges to polling place technicians

Voting isn’t the only way you can participate in Election Day. Although the election is just days away, Illinoisans still have a chance to work elections or oversee the processes.

Illinois is home to 108 election authorities, which are made up of county clerks in 101 counties, one county election commission and six municipal election commissions. These are the people responsible for administering elections locally through voter registration programs, training elections judges, printing ballots, overseeing Election Day activities and supervising vote counts.

Below are some opportunities for Illinoisans to get involved.

Early voting election officials

While most early voting locations are nearly finished with their work across the state, it is still possible to apply as an Early Voting Election Official. For example, early voting for the 2020 Presidential Election began Oct. 14 in Chicago, and the Board of Election Commissioners is looking for temporary workers to help out until polls close on Election Day.

Applicants must be active registered voters, should have basic knowledge of computer operations, communication skills to help voters successfully cast their ballots and be available on the weekday and weekend times provided by the local polling precinct.

The Board of Election Commissioners in Chicago has also been hiring part-time office and warehouse election workers in the months and weeks leading up to the election. You can visit Power the Polls or Work Elections to find out what help your local polling place needs.

Election judges

With the COVID-19 pandemic encouraging many people to vote by mail or social distance as much as possible, there is an increased need for election judges this year. State law was changed so that this year only, any U.S. citizen aged 16 or older is eligible to serve as an election judge. Because Election Day was declared a school holiday this year, this means students can also serve, should they meet the position’s requirements.

It is a paid position responsible for managing the precinct polling place, setting up voting equipment, opening the polls and assisting voters on Election Day. Election judges then complete all reports after polls close.

Pay varies depending on what city or county you work in. For example, Chicago election judges can receive a bonus of $60 if they complete their training before Election Day. That’s on top of the $170 election judges are paid for serving on Election Day. However, Rockford election judges receive a base pay of $160 per election served, earning up to $185 per election should they attend a certification training session.

There are additional payment opportunities, such as serving additional days in mail-in voting processing and picking up the election judge key envelope a week before Election Day. In a few cases, election judges earn $600 or more a year.

Many polling places are also in need of bilingual election judges fluent in languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Hindi and Polish.

Poll worker or polling place technician

A poll worker works alongside election judges to ensure all election processes run smoothly, from helping set up and wiping down voting machines to opening and counting mailed ballots. Some poll worker positions are volunteer, but according to Rock The Vote, most local election offices pay poll workers a stipend between $75 and $500, depending on your location and time worked. In Cook County, a polling place technician is considered to have more responsibility, and therefore requires more training that potentially allows for higher pay.

While it again depends on your local precinct’s requirements, most poll workers are required to be a U.S. citizen at least 16 years old, again, for 2020 only in Illinois. In other years they must be at least 17 and obtain permission from parents and their school to participate. They are also generally required to complete training courses ahead of Election Day. Many locations require at least a 3.0 GPA for student poll workers.

Poll workers are generally expected to work full shifts, not shorter shifts.

According to NPR, more than half of poll workers tend to be 60 years or older. With COVID-19 cases still rising across the nation, many polling places are seeking younger people to help serve in these roles.

Poll watcher

The Illinois General Assembly authorizes poll watchers in primary elections to ensure all election workers are performing their jobs honestly and correctly. Poll watchers begin working before polls open at their respective polling place, during voting hours and after polls close.

Poll watchers must be affiliated with the political party or organization for which they are poll watching, and must be a registered voter in Illinois. Poll watchers must also have credentials in order to work in one or multiple polling places.

In general elections, both candidates and political parties are allowed to appoint two poll watchers each per precinct. Meanwhile, in general elections, civic organizations or proponents and opponents of a proposition are only allowed to appoint one poll watcher per precinct, should they properly register with the appropriate election authority at least 40 days before the primary election.

The Cook County Clerk’s Office provides a comprehensive list of “dos and don’ts” for poll watchers’ rights and responsibilities. This year due to COVID-19, every poll watcher must wear a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth. They must also maintain a distance of at least six feet from both election workers and voters at all times.

Overseeing after the election

Following Election Day, you can still oversee your own vote and ensure it is counted. With many people voting early or by mail, you have the ability to verify that your ballot was received and counted by calling your local election authority to verify this information.

The last day for election authorities to accept mailed ballots is Nov. 17, which must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3.

If voting in person, you will know your ballot is counted when you submit it to the ballot machine.

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