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Perspectives from election judges

By October 19, 2020September 16th, 2023No Comments

Election 2020Are you thinking of volunteering to be an election judge this year? Have you ever wondered what drives people to volunteer to work a 16-hour day (plus training and set-up time) in November?

Many Libraries staff volunteer as election judges. We’ve asked four of them why election judging is so rewarding that they come back year after year. Here are their responses.

Lara Friedman-Shedlov
YMCA Archives

I’ve been an election judge for the city of Minneapolis for about 20 years. There are various jobs election judges are assigned: I particularly enjoy helping people register to vote. While most people are pre-registered, can check in quickly and fill out their ballot, one of the great things about Minnesota is that we allow same-day registration.

Lara Friedman-Shedlov

Lara Friedman-Shedlov

Interpreting the rules about what documentation is required to register on election day is sometimes a bit tricky, but I find it really rewarding when I can help people get past these hurdles so they can exercise their right to vote.

Serving as an election judge is also just a great way to get an understanding of the enormous organizational efforts that go into running an election — all the details, like having the all right supplies at every polling place (different kinds of tape, extension cords, markers for making last minute signs), security and auditing measures, and step-by-step instructions for every task.

Laurie Jedamus
Collection Management & Preservation

Like Lara, I enjoy registering new voters, especially when I’ve known them since they were in middle school. I like the challenge of helping voters who are frustrated or having difficulty with paperwork.

Sometimes being an election judge brings special opportunities. As a long-time election judge, I was asked to participate in the recount between Norm Coleman and Al Franken in 2008. It was simultaneously the most tedious and the most fascinating job I’ve ever had. Tedious? Picture sitting at a table behind a pile of ballots and, moving at a careful and deliberate pace, picking up the top ballot, checking to see who was selected, and placing it in either the Coleman or the Franken pile. Repeat approximately a gazillion times, enlivened by the occasional switch from sorting judge to observer judge. At the same time, it was also fascinating to be part of the whole process — the two judges for each stack, the observers representing each candidate watching like hawks from the other side of the table, the elections staff moving the sealed boxes of ballots to the sorting tables, and the general public observing the whole process from the second floor gallery. Just like Election Day judging, it felt like being a part of history.

Michael Johnson
Data Management and Access

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson

I’ve been an election judge for 30 years now. For the past 28 years, I’ve been the head judge in my precinct, and as such, my job is to float around and make sure that all the other judges are able to do their tasks effectively. I’m there to answer any questions that come up and interact with voters who have questions or who have issues getting in their way of voting. I do everything in my power and under the law to aid them in casting their vote, while taking great pains to ensure that I do not influence that vote in any way. On Election Day, you’ll hear me frequently say, “Tomorrow, I might have an opinion on that . . . but not today.”

I started mostly out of a sense of curiosity about how the whole process works.  I continued because in our increasing polarized political environment, it is somewhere that everyone working has the same objective — to assist everyone else in expressing their political voice.  For me, I do my little bit to ensure that our elections in Minnesota are run safely, respectfully, and inclusively.

Also, I’m serving my penance for doing smart-ass write-in votes with my friends’ names for county judges when I was in college. 😉

Brian Vetruba
Arts & Humanities

Brian Vetruba

Brian Vetruba

When I returned to Minnesota in 2019, I was delighted to learn about all of the early voting options. I cast my first vote back in Minnesota on a Saturday during the 2019 municipal election. I was very impressed with the time the election judge took to explain ranked-choice voting. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I already watched multiple videos on how to do it. After leaving, I was asked if I was interested in becoming an election judge. I thought: Why not? I’d be able to give back to my new community.

So I started as an assistant head election judge in St. Paul for the August 2020 state primary. Although I’ve interacted with election judges as a voter and  watched all the training videos, I really had no idea what to expect. I served various roles, including greeting voters and helping voters who were having trouble submitting their ballots. Like Lara and Laurie, the most rewarding job was registering new voters. I was able to assist citizens from all walks of life exercise their right to vote. I’ll never forget helping an elderly man whose daughter was translating for him fill out the registration form.

I got a high from it all. I won’t kid you though — it was a very long day (from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.) and there was a lot of time when we weren’t busy at all. I got a lot of professional reading done during down time! Overall, it was a very positive experience and made me proud to be a Minnesotan.

This is just a small sample from the many Libraries staff who work in this essential and rewarding job. Wish us an accurate and smooth election on November 3 — and maybe one day, you’ll join us!


Author markenge

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