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Ready for duty: Election judges play key role

Election judge Isie Brindley helps a voter as judge Melvin Peterson looks on at the Pottawatomie Community Center in St. Charles during election day April 9, 2013.
Election judge Isie Brindley helps a voter as judge Melvin Peterson looks on at the Pottawatomie Community Center in St. Charles during election day April 9, 2013.

Today is primary election day in Illinois, and Isie Brindley is ready for duty as an election judge.

Brindley, of St. Charles, is one of about 1,000 election judges serving during the primary at 228 polling places, Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said.

Brindley, of St. Charles, said she served as an election judge in Kane County for several years, was a poll watcher for 10 years and served previously when she lived in Florida.

“I think it is very important for people to be active in their community,” said Brindley, a Democrat.

Cunningham said state law requires judges of both parties to be stationed at polling places.

“They are officers of the court once I swear them in,” Cunningham said. “They control the operation of the voting place, and can expel people who cause problems. Democrat and Republican judges have to agree on an action.”

Also, if a voter requires assistance, Republican and Democrat judges monitor the process “to make sure there’s no monkey business,” Cunningham said.

Judges are paid $145 for their service. They must arrive at polling places by 5 a.m. and work until the equipment is packed up after the polls close at 7 p.m. 

Judges’ responsibilities include setting up election equipment, assisting voters, signing them in, verifying their qualifications to vote, distributing ballots, operating the voting equipment, filling out forms, processing and transmitting votes at the end of the day and certifying vote totals.

They go through training to be certified that explains how to do the process and what to expect, Brindley said.

“It was scary the first time. I didn’t know what to expect,” Brindley said. “But people were very helpful. ... I try to keep a neutral environment on election day. No electioneering, no politicking. This is my responsibility, and I take it very seriously.”

A self-described political junkie, Brindley said she watched the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate when she was 10 years old.

“That is what got in my blood,” Brindley said. “As a voter, I spend a great deal of time looking at the candidates, and looking at what my opinions will be.”

Carol Vonderhaar of St. Charles, serves as a Republican election judge and also will be on the job today. Vonderhaar said she has served as a judge for two years and enjoys it.

“I don’t like getting up that early, but it’s fun once you get there,” Vonderhaar said. “It’s a good group that we have.”

Charles Harvey, 75, of Campton Hills started serving as a Democratic election judge sometime in the 1990s. He said he sees his service as an extension of his citizenship responsibilities.

“Particularly today on the news where people around the world don’t have the right to vote,”  Harvey said. “It’s something that we ought to do ... other than ever run the chance of ever losing it.”

Melvin Peterson, 93, of St. Charles, said this primary begins his 40th year as a Republican election judge. He said the long day does not bother him at all.

“It’s so much easier today with the computer and all this equipment,” Peterson said. 

And like the other judges, Peterson sees voting and serving as an election judge as an important part of a citizen’s responsibility.

“I think it is your duty as a citizen to vote,” Peterson said.

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