The Tazewell County Clerk’s Office is in need of more than 100 election judges for the upcoming presidential election in November to man the county’s 135 precincts.
Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb said it is a challenge to get enough judges willing to sit at the polls from 6:15 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then for another hour or two to do the paperwork associated with the polling place, and bring the ballots to the Tazewell County Courthouse.
The clerk’s office currently has 641 appointed judges for this election, but at least 750 are needed, said Judy Lacey, Tazewell County Clerk’s Office election clerk.
The challenge is greater now that people can come to the polling site and register the day of the election, said Webb. A state law went into effect this year that allows same-day registration at precincts in counties with more than 100,000 people. Tazewell County has 134,800, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimate in July 2015. The state piloted the same-day registration program last year.
“It makes it very difficult because I need somebody separate in the polling precincts because I can’t hold up the process of other people that are registered to get (new people) registered,” said Webb. “I wish I knew how many we actually had on election day (last year).
“It makes it problematic in the office because staff has work to do and then we’ve got people coming to the counter. So, this year, we’re going to try to be proactive and try to hire a couple of part-time workers and make them election judges so the girls can continue to answer the phone and continue to do what they need to do.”
It is always difficult to say how large or small voter turnout will be, but given the attention the presidential campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump has garnered, Webb said, “Let’s say I’m not looking for a smaller election by any means. I just get the feeling, and we still have a lot of people registering, so I think the turnout will be as high as any other presidential election, which is usually 65 to 68 percent. I just think people are going to want their right to speak and I foresee a very large turnout.”
The county has approximately 90,000 registered voters. So far this year, more than 5,000 have come in to register to vote.
Judges are selected by the chairmen of the county central committees of the two leading political parties, or the township committeemen. The names are given to the county clerk’s office and if the number is short of what is needed, the clerk’s office appoints them.
Each polling place has five judges, plus the one judge to register voters.
Judges can be appointed on the day of the election.
In the past, a political science major at a college asked to participate on election morning and was sent out to his precinct to do so, said Lacey.
At least one judge in each party representing each political party must be certified as having satisfactorily completed, within the preceding six months, a training course and examination for judges of election. The four-hour course covers duties and responsibilities of election judges and an examination to test reading skills, ability to work with poll lists, ability to add and knowledge of election laws governing the operation of polling places.
High school students are eligible to serve if they are juniors or seniors and meet other criteria. Twenty Pekin High School students will serve as judges in November, said Lacey. Other high school students have participated in the past, including students from Morton, East Peoria and Tremont.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin