What Happens on Election Day?
By Chris Hotchkin
If you are a precinct committeeman, a campaign volunteer, a poll watcher, and especially if you are an Election Judge, Primary Election Day on March 20, will be a busy and exciting day.
Election judges will start their day between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m., preparing the polling place and materials, including making sure the voting machines are working and starting at zero votes. Each polling place includes 2 to 4 precincts. There will be a crew of election judges, some representing the Democratic Party, and some representing the Republican Party. Each crew of judges has one Technical Judge who has received special training in the operation of the voting machines and other technical tools used in the polling place. This Technical Judge is not “the boss” of the other judges, but is often looked to for answers to questions regarding the machines. Questions regarding who should be allowed to vote or to register should be decided by consensus of the entire crew of judges, which is why there are both Democratic and Republican judges.
Poll watchers, including precinct committeemen, should also plan to get to the polling place about 5:30 or before the polls open at 6:00. The poll watchers will observe to see that the machines are functioning and at zero, and that the judges seem ready for the day.
Throughout the day, poll watchers may remain in the polling place or come and go, as their schedule permits. When a poll watcher, including a PC, first enters the polls, he or she will present their poll watching credentials to the election judges who will retain them. Each time the PW visits the polls, he or she will sign in and out. Poll watchers may observe voters as they sign in and are handed their ballots. They may not interfere with the process or touch any materials. Some poll watchers and PC’s may keep a record of which voters have come in to vote, so they know who needs a reminder later in the day. If a poll watcher or a PC observes something that does not seem legal or correct, e.g. electioneering within 100 feet of the polling room, judges appearing to be confused about whom they can register, judges handling ballots after they have been voted or attempting to influence voters, or machines not working, the poll watcher can report any issues to our township chair or someone she designates.
At the end of Election Day, poll watchers should be in the polling place before it closes at 7:00 p.m. if they plan to stay and observe as the judges close the polls. The election judges will remove and pack the paper ballots from the machine, and will run 4 or 5 tapes of the results on each machine. A poll watcher may request one of the tapes, which the judges will provide if they have enough paper tape. One of the result tapes will be taped onto the outer door of the building housing the polling place, so voters can stop by and see the results. Two of the judges, one Democrat and one Republican, will transport the paper ballots to the Election Commission office in Wheaton.
If you are a PC, an election judge, a campaign worker, or a candidate, there will be various gatherings after the polls close, planned by different campaigns, to hear the election results. It is always exciting to watch results come in, especially when you have been an active participant in a campaign and on Election Day.