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Chicago Needs 1,000 More Election Judges — And Soon

"If we filled 100 in the next two weeks that would be a miracle," said Bucktown leader Steve Jensen, a member of the 32nd Ward Democrats.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, some neighborhoods in Chicago are facing a historic shortage in poll workers.
Julie Shapiro / DNAinfo
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CHICAGO — With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, some neighborhoods in Chicago are facing a major shortage of election judges.

Across the city’s 50 wards, precincts in 24 wards still need two or more election judges, Jim Allen, a spokesman with the Chicago Board of Elections, told Block Club Tuesday. About 1,000 more elected judges are needed, he said.

In five of those wards, more than 30 precincts are short two or more judges.

Election judges are responsible for setting up and tearing down polling precincts on Election Day. They monitor voting machines, assist voters and transmit results.

The city pays election judges a flat $200 fee, which includes training.

RELATED: Here’s How To Make $200 Working As An Election Day Judge On Feb. 26

The need is greatest in North Side wards, Allen said — “stretching from Streeterville to O’Hare.”

The city’s 32nd Ward, which includes Bucktown, Logan Square, West Lakeview and Roscoe Village, was short 105 workers across 43 precincts as of Monday, said Steve Jensen, a Bucktown leader and a volunteer with the 32nd Ward Democrats.

“If we filled 100 in the next two weeks that would be a miracle,” he said.

It’s not uncommon for the ward to face worker shortages ahead of municipal elections, Jensen said, but this is the worst he’s seen leading up to an election.

“It’s really kind of fallen to the wayside,” he said. “The lack of judges really hinders the whole democratic process.”

Election judges arrive at 5 a.m. on Election Day — Feb. 26 — to set up the equipment, open the polls at 6 a.m., issue ballots and help voters with questions until polling is over at about 7 p.m. They also complete results reports after the polls close, according to the Board of Election Commissioners’ website.

At most polling locations, three to four people work the Election Day shift. Workers also complete four hours of training.

Bonuses are also available to judges who do other tasks, like process vote-by-mail ballots and pick up the election judge key envelope a week before Election Day.

Working the polls isn’t the most lucrative gig in the world, but it is a great opportunity for high school students, the elderly and someone between jobs to give back to the community, Jensen said.

If the 32nd Ward isn’t able to land more election judges, Jensen said he fears voters will face long lines on Election Day.

Voters still have the opportunity to vote by mail or vote early. But many voters prefer to vote on Election Day out of habit, and that’s what worries Jensen.

“When they get there and they have to stand for an hour, they become disenfranchised with the whole process,” Jensen said. “People might drop out the next time and stay home. And that’s not what we need as a society.”  

People can apply online to be an election judge at chipollworker.com. Anyone who is 18 and a registered voter can apply. Judges must be registered voters in Cook County and must be able to speak, write and read English, among other requirements.

Election judges do not have to work in the wards in which they live.

Election judges interested in working Feb. 26 are not required to commit to work an April 2 run off — even though that’s what the city would prefer, Allen said.

If a run-off election does happen, judges who work will receive an additional $200.

As of Tuesday, nearly half of the city’s 50 wards needed two or more election judges.

Here’s the latest breakdown:

1st Ward: 31 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 62 judges needed)

2nd Ward: 11 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 22 judges needed)

23rd Ward: 7 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 14 judges needed)

25th Ward: 4 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 8 judges needed)

26th Ward: 34 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 68 judges needed)

27th Ward: 4 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 8 judges needed)

30th Ward: 10 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 20 judges needed)

31st Ward: 12 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 24 judges needed)

32nd Ward: 33 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 66 judges needed)

33rd Ward: 10 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 20 judges needed)

35th Ward: 9 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 18 judges needed)

36th Ward: 10 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 20 judges needed)

38th Ward: 15 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 30 judges needed)

39th Ward: 15 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 30 judges needed)

40th Ward: 9 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 18 judges needed)

41st Ward: 19 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 38 judges needed)

42nd Ward: 21 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 42 judges needed)

43rd Ward: 35 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 70 judges needed)

44th Ward: 28 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 56 judges needed)

45th Ward: 17 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 34 judges needed)

46th Ward: 18 precincts need 2+ judges ( at least 36 judges needed)

47th Ward: 41 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 82 judges needed)

48th Ward: 6 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 12 judges needed)

50th Ward: 9 precincts need 2+ judges (at least 18 judges needed)

For a full guide to the 2019 municipal elections, check out Chi.Vote here.

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