Unsung Heroes of Voting Day

With less than 40 days until the presidential election, 1000’s of registered voters are preparing to serve as election judges in our area on November 6th. From one local university to adults across DuPage County, people are ready to work the polls.

The judges are the backbone of election day. They work long hours, setting up and breaking down the polling places, helping Americans take part in the Democratic process.

From giving voters correct information to ensuring that every election is run as fair as possible, they do it all. The DuPage county election commission anticipates that 3000 election judges will be used throughout the county in this year’s presidential election.

Naperville’s Phyllis Newman is among that group. She has served as a judge for 15 years.

“It’s one day. You’re doing your civic duty and you get paid; there’s no downside. It’s a long day, but if you’re with good judges, its a good day,” Newman said.

She says the people are what bring her back.

“It’s a very social day and you’re giving back to the community. It’s very fulfilling,” added Newman.

Robert Saar heads up the DuPage County Election Commission. He counts on judges to make his job easier.

“They’re what makes this work. We can do all the preparation, but without that army of 3000 judges on election day, nothing would happen,” explained Saar.
Most judges apply online. Once selected, they come to Wheaton for hands on experience with all of the equipment.

A shortage of judges in recent years has prompted the need for special programs like the one at Benedictine University.

The school already had a Center for Civic Leadership, which encouraged students to engage in the political system. They created a supplementary program in 2010 to help students become election judges, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“All the stuff we try to do in the center for civic leadership is to try and foster a sentiment of giving back to the community,” said Joel Ostrow, department chair of the political science department. “This is an extremely important service that only the citizens can provide.”

Since the start of the initiative, more than 600 students have served as judges.
“It’s blown away our expectations, it’s a spectacular success,” Ostrow enthused.

Funding for the program ended this year, so Benedictine moved the process online, relying on the Political Science Student Association (PSSA) to spread the word. “We have a table set up across campus every two to three days. It’s always nice to help sign up more people to serve the community,” said Tyler Marcum, president of PSSA.

This November’s presidential election will be a busy day for all election judges, as 80% of the voters are expected to turn out. Anyone interested in applying to be a judge should visit www.DuPageCO.org/election

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