Idatyna Zarecky of Lake in the Hills decided to become an election judge for McHenry County in 2011 when Paula Yensen, a McHenry County Board member, knocked on her door.
“I didn’t know her from a can of paint,” Zarecky said of Yensen, “and I didn’t know what was going in the election or where you found that information. She answered questions that I had and gave me all that info.”
The experience motivated Zarecky to sign up to be an election judge, a role she had done previously in Aurora when she was just 18, she said.
The McHenry County Clerk’s Office is in the process of figuring out how many election judges will be returning for the primary elections in June and how many they will need, county election supervisor Meghan Honea said.
“We are always looking for new judges,” Honea said. “It doesn’t matter what type of election cycle. We’ll have some teachers, some that are snowbirds, people in all different courses of life.”
Honea described a “mishmash” of ways the county tries to recruit election judges in addition to call those who have worked in previous years.
This year, the county’s marketing department produced a two-minute video, in which Zarecky was a participant, that was released on Feb. 23, highlighting the experiences of several election judges from years past.
“Every election is different, but we all come in and we have the same job to do,” Zarecky said. “It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican at that point. It’s about making sure everybody has an opportunity to vote.”
The role of election judges in McHenry County has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, with the only major change being updated equipment, Zarecky said.
Zarecky said she’s made several good friends being an election judge, all met through the judge training process back in 2011 and people she’ll still grab coffee or lunch with after elections.
Unfortunately, this year, Zarecky said she could not be an election judge because of health reasons, but said she wanted to come back in coming years.
In the past, it has sometimes come down to the last minute to find election judges, depending on how many are new or need training, but the county tries to train every election judge at least four to six weeks before an election, Honea said.
“It’s always difficult to get judges,” Honea said. “Everyone’s schedule changes. We would love to have more apply and get more people involved. There’s so much more to elections that typical voters don’t see.”
The county needs up to 800 election judges in presidential elections, and for smaller elections like the primaries, the county hopes to have that many but doesn’t always end up getting that many, Honea said.
Judges can sign up in person at the county clerk’s office or fill out an application on the website, mchenrycountyil.gov, Honea said.
This year, the Illinois primary election is June 28 and the general election is Nov. 8.
In addition to existing preparation, McHenry County will train election judges on signature verification, McHenry County clerk Joe Tirio told the Northwest Herald earlier this month.
While nationally there has been debate about election fraud or voter disenfranchisement, Honea hasn’t she hasn’t had those conversations with past election judges.
While some voters have “negative energy”, Zarecky said, for the most part in her 10 years as an election judge in McHenry County, she hasn’t had any issues with voters challenging the judges on their role.
She’s also never seen any type of evidence of fraud over the years, she said.
“Nobody has come in twice to vote,” Zarecky said. “We haven’t had any dead people trying to vote.”