DuPage looking to enlist more election judges

 
 
Updated 5/12/2016 4:12 PM
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Long lines and other problems that plagued some DuPage County polling places during the March primary could have been avoided if more election judges showed up to work, officials say.

DuPage County Election Commission officials said Thursday they wanted 2,160 election judges working at the county's more than 250 polling places during the March 15 primary. They ended up with 1,494.

"Many people confirmed and then dropped out," said Robert Saar, the commission's executive director. In fact, he said some "didn't call us and just didn't show up on Election Day."

The staffing shortage happened on the same day voter turnout reached nearly 50 percent in DuPage. In addition, 6,359 county residents took advantage of same-day voter registration.

Saar said there's "no question" the lack of election judges contributed to longer lines at several locations.

"We had a polling place where we expected 10 judges to show up. Five showed up," said Saar, adding that one of the missing workers was supposed to operate the electronic poll book that was used to review voter data.

Saar said there would have been less waiting for voters if all the polling places were fully staffed.

He also said memory cards containing information from voting machines would have been delivered sooner to the commission's main office in Wheaton.

"With such a small number of judges, they weren't able to do some of the closing work beforehand," he said.

Now the commission is taking steps to ensure there's enough election judges for the busier presidential election in November.

First, it's planning to contact local Republican and Democratic organizations to see if they know of anyone with a serious interest in becoming an election judge. Only a fraction of the commission's active election judges were recommended by a political party, according to Saar.

The commission also is going to reach out to high schools, colleges and universities to encourage young people who qualify to sign up to become election judges.

James S. Lowe, who serves on the board that oversees the commission, said it's a good idea to enlist young people because they're energetic and excited about the election process.

"We need to draft a whole new generation of judges," Lowe said.

In addition to getting new election judges, Saar said the commission wants to keep its experienced judges.

"We could quadruple the number of laptops out there," Saar said. "They are nothing but paperweights unless we get competent, skilled people to work them."

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