Election workers help make sure your vote counts TuesdayAt every election, a group of people quietly helps voters register, hands people the correct ballots and makes sure every vote is counted by the ballot machines.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
At every election, a group of people quietly helps voters register, hands people the correct ballots and makes sure every vote is counted by the ballot machines.
These are the election clerks, inspectors and judges, who will turn up at the Jamestown Civic Center at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and stay until the polls close at 7 p.m.
“It’s a civic duty to me. It’s kind of neat,” said Carolyn Exner, who will serve as an election judge for the Democratic Party.
Election workers will be paid $12 an hour this year, up from $10 last year.
One of their major tasks will be explaining to people that they cannot vote across party lines in a primary — they must choose a single party and vote only in that column.
They will likely be making note of the fact that the ballots have two sides, and there are parties on both sides of the ballot.
About five clerks and 15 judges and inspectors met Wednesday in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center to attend “election school.” The clerks got an in-depth look at the software used to register voters, while the others received a map of the layout of the Civic Center and instructions to give voters.
Then there are all the little details — every ballot has to be initialed by an election worker, and the only writing tools that the ballot-counting machines reliably recognize are pens with black ink. And the machines also don’t reliably pick up Xs or partly-filled in ovals — ovals need to be completely filled in.
Automark machines will be available for those with disabilities, but people can also ask anyone they want, including friends, family members or strangers, for help voting.
If a voter flubs on a ballot, he or she can ask for a new one, but voters only get three chances.
Campaigning isn’t allowed in the Civic Center during the vote, meaning political buttons are forbidden. People who wear University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux apparel can vote, but not if their outfits say people should vote one way or another about the nickname. In that case, they might be asked to leave and turn their shirts inside-out before they return to vote.
Most of the election workers are women, but there are a few men, too, and both the young and the old work at the polls each year.
Kate Spanjer, who will be an election judge with the Democratic Party this year, has been working at elections since the 1960s.
Exner has been working at the polls since the late 1980s, and her husband, Jim Exner, since 2000.
“I enjoy meeting all the people here,” Carolyn Exner said.
Election judges sit in pairs at the Civic Center, with a judge of each party at each table. The judges are chosen by the chairman of each local party.
Bev Schaack, an election judge, was called upon to serve because she’s active in the Republican Party.
Kathy Huber, a Republican election judge, will be serving for the first time this year. She received a call from the chairman of the local Republican Party asking her to work at the election.
“I’ve always been interested in doing this,” Huber said, but had hesitated in previous years because she didn’t want to have to stay up all night counting ballots.
Election judges and inspectors won’t have to do that this year — only small city ballots will have to be counted by hand, and a different group of nine people will do that beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Jim Exner can still remember having to stay with the ballots until they were counted, back when more people voted in multiple precincts.
“We have to make sure the right ballot gets in the right hands, and give them instruction on how to vote,” Huber said.
Though the election judges are divided by party, it’s a very amicable division. Carolyn Exner and Huber decided during election school to sit with each other during Tuesday’s primary election.
“It’s a long day, but generally … people are nice and courteous,” Spanjer said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com