On Being an Election Judge

Eva Vitanovec, Current Events Editor

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During my time entrenched in the battleground that was Precinct One of the New Trier Township District, I learned of the complete and utter tedium that makes up the Illinois election process.

This was my second time serving as an election judge, with my first being a voluntary experience, and the second being a required event for my AP Political Science class. The process was basically the same for the past two years, including the problems we ran into.

For our precinct, the biggest problem was a culmination of there not being enough electronic polling stations and the card activator working only 15% of the time. Many people assumed that the electronic polling stations were faster, but, in fact, they were slower if you account for the time it took to try five or more times to activate their card in the incredibly unpredictable card activator and the time waiting in line for one of the two stations to become available –  to add to our troubles, for part of the day one of the stations was out of order.

Reflecting on the experience as a whole, the technology aspects, ironically, were actually what hindered the efficacy the most. For example, the epollbooks (the computer systems used to check people in) are a great idea in theory, but if they crash (as mine did halfway through the day) there is basically no other way to check in voters, thereby causing widespread panic. In order to get my epollbook up and running again, I called the helpline on the front of my handbook where I spoke to a very nice man named Tom, to whom I explained my dilemma and he then connected me a separate epollbook helpline where I spoke to another woman, and we eventually settled on the conclusion of me having to shut my epolbook down and restart it. I guarantee I would have gotten the same answer if I called the Apple store. I can only imagine if this were to occur to both epollbooks and the frenzy it would throw the voters of Precinct One into.
Despite the obvious need for a technological upgrade, election judging did provide a helpful, up close and personal look at the inner workings of our democracy, and I was able to make some connections to class material we learned in AP Poli Sci. For example, earlier in the year we learned how some states requirement of voter identification deterred many from voting. As I learned, Illinois does not require any type of identification to vote, which, when explained to many voters checking in at my epollbook handing me their drivers’ licenses, were frankly shocked to hear.

I do share their concern because after learning how the voter check-in process works, I (17 years-old) could literally show up to my voting place and say my name is Kathleen Vitanovec, give them my address, and vote as my mom. I could also probably go home, change outfits, and come back at the end of the day and pretend to be one of my neighbors. Hopefully the general public is not as enlightened as me, or else Illinois would have a very severe case of voter fraud on their hands, but it because very clear to me that voter identification should be required in every state.

Working as an election judge did, however, serve as a realization to how flawed our flaunted democracy is. There so are many little parts, so many things that could go wrong, it is impossible to count. When I heard of the Russians “hacking” the 2016 election, I never really thought that was possible, but, after getting one look at our card activator with an antenna attached to it, I think we should be very scared.