SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Board on Wednesday will consider increasing election judges’ daily pay to $200, following in the footsteps of a state bill that increased the workers’ pay by $20 earlier this summer.
DeKalb County Board member Ellingsworth Webb, a Democrat from District 9, said he thinks election judges in the county would welcome the pay increase – and he would know, he’s been an election judge for the past 16 years. County officials have said a pay increase could help entice more to sign up to work the polls on election day.
“I think that it’s good that they are able to be rewarded for it. We have election judges that have been doing this for more than 30, 40 years, so it’s nice to have that reward, Also, it would be a nice recruiting tool‚” Webb said. “I think it’s absolutely a great motivational tool to help people, young people that get involved in the process.”
Webb said, because of his conflict of interest, he plans on recusing himself from voting on the resolution when it comes up during the County Board meeting set for 7 p.m. in the Gathertorium at the Legislative Center, 200 N. Main St., Sycamore.
"Increasing the amount election judge compensation will show election judges that we value their service, will ease the financial burden of taking off work to serve as an election judge, and will better incentivize new election judges to apply to serve.”— DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Tasha Sims
In recent years, DeKalb County has hustled to get enough election judges before it comes time to vote. The topic arose again in the campaign for DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder in November 2022. Months before the June 2022 Primary election, DeKalb County still needed 100 judges to work polls. Two days before the April 4 Consolidated Election this spring, DeKalb County had 269 people committed to be election judges, which Clerk and Recorder Tasha Sims called “a good position” to be in compared to other counties.
Even though the State Board of Elections reimburses Illinois counties for some of the money spent on election judges, including the new $20 raise approved by the state, the DeKalb County Board still has to vote to approve any additional pay rate changes.
During discussion about the matter Aug. 9, DeKalb County Board Executive Committee members voiced a desire to further increase the compensation election judges receive from the county.
According to county documents, election judges are given a base pay of $110 – for a work day that starts at 5 a.m. and lasts until at least 7 p.m. on election day. By passing a mandatory biennial training course, election judges can receive $150 a day.
The state law will increase the daily pay of an election judge in DeKalb County to $170 without taking money away from the county. The County Board could then vote to pay an additional $30 for election judges to receive $200 total.
DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Tasha Sims asked the Finance and Administration Committee in a letter dated Aug. 2. to consider increasing the election judge compensation by more than the state prescribed amount.
“The current election judge daily compensation does not reflect the value of the service election judges provide. Increasing the amount election judge compensation will show election judges that we value their service, will ease the financial burden of taking off work to serve as an election judge, and will better incentivize new election judges to apply to serve,” Sims wrote.
According to county documents, it costs DeKalb County $51,750 to pay for five election judges at 69 precincts. The state reimburses the county $15,525, bringing the total cost on the county down to $36,225.
The state law mandates county’s increase the pay rate by $20 per day for each worker, but that cost will be added to the reimbursement. If the County Board votes for only the $20 increase, the county will still pay $36,225 for the labor but the state will reimburse the county almost $8,000 more than it has in the past.
A $200 daily compensation rate would require the county to pay an additional $30 to up to 345 election judges – increasing the county’s cost by more than $10,000 per election.
Sims said judges would need to be paid $225 a day for a $15 per hour rate.
“I’m not trying to be greedy, and I want to be mindful of the budget as a whole, so I didn’t quite advocate for that amount – not that I won’t shoot myself in the foot, by any means, because the judges are very deserving of it – but I think $200 to me sounded more like a round, even number that I think would be a little more attractive,” Sims said.