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Reflections of A First-Time Election Judge

Amidst the constant noise about the condition of our elections, this was the year I signed up to be an Election Judge. What made it an easy decision was that I was assigned to my local polling place, the new fire station just minutes from my house.


First, I had to be trained. That amounted to a morning at the local Board of Elections. After the lecture on how to be judicial and, at the same time, helpful, we got some hands-on training. The poll books are no longer the paper ones I was introduced to when I cast my first vote back in the sixties. They were more akin to an iPad with wires. The ballots are still paper that you filled in with a pen, except for ones printed out when the voter chooses the fancy Ballot Marking Device. That is the only part of the process that requires the assistance of a judge to set up and explain.


I was duly impressed by the steps to set up the scanners that made copies of the ballots and tabulated the results. Each part involved numbered seals to ensure that the only person touching a ballot was the voter. That was the sum total of the in-person voting. Other than a scanner doing the initial counting, there have been no major changes over my lifetime.


[With all these safeguards, how come there’s so much arguing over the way we vote? I’ll leave that for later. Back to the story.]


After completing the training, I was given a manual and my homework was to read the first four chapters before election day. Lucky for me, the rest of the manual was for the chief judges.


Election Day arrived. I assisted in setting up the room the night before, and met the other people I would be working with. I’d describe our team as a family affair. One of the chief judges was joined by his wife and son, and the other chief judge was joined by two cousins. One other judge and myself were the locals in the group. Being competitive, I was bummed that her street had more voters show up than mine. Still, it was a treat to see the ones that did come to vote, and to meet others that live close by.


On reflection, our eight-person team was more than adequate to handle the two precincts for the primary. If the two were split for the general, an eight-person team could handle each one and, with a few more volunteers at the end, count the votes. And that would be true if all the votes were done in person, with no votes by mail. No more arguing about the poll books; no more fuss about the machines; and no more concern about voter ID. And as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story.

By Barry Chodak RWBC Associate Member

Become an election judge! Sign up at the Baltimore County Board of Elections here.

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