Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Always in need of more good election judges

You may remember Woodstock reader John Sullivan from his earlier email encouraging voter participation in the primary election, even from those who don’t feel close to either major political party. Sullivan wrote back after the primary to share his experience helping that election come to fruition:

“I served as an election judge for Dorr 4 and Dorr 6 in Woodstock and our polling place was the Woodstock Public Library. I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about Tuesday given the supercharged political climate with the recent Supreme Court decisions and the January 6 hearings. However, I am happy to report that this may have been the most pleasant election for which I have served as a judge.

“My fellow judges and I knew a high percentage of the folks who came to vote and it felt more like a community gathering than a contentious primary. Perhaps having only two precincts voting at the library contributed to the neighborly vibe with friends and neighbors greeting each other and exchanging family news. Or maybe it was the beautiful weather that lifted everyone’s spirits. Several people wondered why we don’t have elections in May or June instead of November and March.

“Turnout was higher than we anticipated with around 350 voters. Many voters seemed to be participating in their first primary and were surprised that they had to declare a party affiliation to vote and could only vote in that party’s contests. Many expressed an interest in seeing Illinois switch to some form of open primary to provide greater choice and voting freedom. Primary styles vary greatly from state to state so taking a close look at other options might be a positive step.

“In general, Tuesday’s experience left me feeling more hopeful and optimistic about my community. The respectful and civil way in which people came together and participated in the political process was just the tonic I needed.”

Illinois polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Judges arrive about 5 a.m., expecting to be on duty until 9 p.m. validating and returning materials to government offices. They take breaks and rotate through stations so everyone gets experience at each aspect. Judges take initial training then re-certify every other year. There’s pay involved, but year-over-year commitment stems from passion for the process.

If you’re interested – and this includes qualified high school juniors and seniors – check with your local election authority. Perhaps someday Illinois will move past a system where political organizations submit names of judges for appointment, but at least the law guarantees balance and hopefully safeguards against an increasing partisan distrust in voting.

Safe elections don’t happen by magic. Regular people do important work, and you can join them.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at