Elections & sausage….a judge’s perspective.


I have been a judge of election for about 30 years. I became an election judge because I was working part time, &  a non-profit group , Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precincts) was recruiting.  They claimed that the training that the Chicago Board of Elections provided was  insufficient.  My, how things have  evolved in  3 decades.

LEAP was  extremely effective in getting their trained  citizens to staff election sites. Unfortunately, they were not effective in getting enough funding to keep going.
They had to fold.  Yet, in that time,  we  got Harold Washington elected as mayor, and things started to change for the better.

In fact (not sure how it is done in other cities,  we’ve had ‘early voting ‘ in nursing homes as long as I can remember..) it used to be that nursing home administrators  voted all their patients’ ballots. No joke…. And they all voted Democratic  straight tickets.  Then,  because of the poll watchers, we  were asking residents who were obviously not totally lucid (yes—it remains a question of who  registered these people to vote) if they needed help,  this year, the trainers at the board of elections made it extremely clear that  election judges could not ask people if they needed help. The request for help had to come from the voter. That, of course, prevented many people from making  uninformed choices….but…you will   see…they are no different fro  the lucid voters in the general population.

I tell everyone taking a ballot that—  just by taking a ballot, they are voting. They don’t have to vote for anyone they don’t know. The ballot still counts for the people they did voted for.  Many people don’t  know this—so they vote for people they don’t know—& as a result, not only do we have  bad legislators, but horrible judges. Would you believe, someone  called the Board of Elections & complained about me telling people that? We also tell them if they make a mistake, to bring the ballot back.  We will give them a new ballot.

The Board of Elections  gives us so many posters to hang up, instructing voters, but not a single posted tells any voter that they don’t have to vote in all the races. Why? Neither  party wants  people to know that.

In Chicago, for the past several years, we’ve had early voting. It’s publicized on TV, the radio, in newspapers. You can go to 1 of any  20 or so sites, no matter where you  live, and if you are a registered voter, you can vote via computer, and your vote will automatically be tallied  at the correct precinct & ward when  the vote is consolidated.    This also means  that  if you moved, if your registration expired, anything not right— you will find out early enough to correct this.

Now… My Fellow Americans…we have a census every 10 years, so  the government can get an idea of where populations are  to provide services. Within about 5 years, there is a redistricting of political boundaries.  You  can’t graduate from 8th grade without learning this, because you get a Constitution test. Same after 4 years of high school, and if you graduate from a public university.  Yet, ask the typical American to name the  3 branches of government, & he draws a a blank. He knows who Kim Kardashian is, but not his  representative in Congress.

The point?  your polling place may have changed since the last time you voted.  It  certainly changed if you moved!  Yet, even though they had over 2 weeks—including Saturday afternoons, to  vote, a statistically significant number of would be voters waited until after 3:00p.m. on voting day to  try to figured out where  to vote, & have regular citizens (we are  contract workers to the Board of Elections)  help them figure out where and how to vote.

Now, I don’t know if this is true, but I have been told that in some places, the place you go to vote is on your voters registration card!  It would be really really helpful to also print on the card: this card expires xx/xx/20xx &  has to be renewed!!!!

I know that some day we will vote on the internet, and these same people will wait until 6:55 p.m. to cast a vote that has to be in by 7:00p.m.

We had to keep reminding people that they had been challenged in a canvas, by other regular folks who  were contract workers for the Board of Elections, and because they either did not have their name on their mail box or door bell, they were challenged as to their right to vote.

And—even in this age of computers, this was done  about a month before the election, and had they voted early, they would have learned of this.

Remember, in this country, we have representational  government, and there is a difference between that and good government.

I have been an election judge in Bosnia, and Americans go all over the world with several USAID & USIA funded agencies that monitor elections in other countries. We really need that here. Who would I pick to monitor us?  The Norwegians.

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