Spotlight Politics: Officials Fear Judge Shortage Could Make Election Day Difficult

The Chicago Board of Elections is pleading with the public in order to find election judges for Tuesday’s primary.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the board, told reporters that the number of judges who’ve resigned their posts amid the coronavirus crisis is into the hundreds.

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“The judges who have been signed up and taking classes as long ago as November and December, who’ve been enthusiastically responsive to the new equipment and excited about how much simpler it is to use are now calling with fear and trepidation in their voices,” Allen said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

More: 2020 Voter Guide to the Primary Election

Board chair Marisel Hernandez said voters have done their best to reduce pressure on election day voting. For example, 16,328 people cast ballots in early voting on Sunday. Monday morning, more than 12,000 voters visited one of the city’s 51 early polling sites in fewer than five hours.

Still, they are fearful that election day will not run smoothly as polling sites close due to a lack of judges.

“We are bracing for the most difficult election under the most trying circumstances. We are in the midst of a global pandemic which was declared last Wednesday by the World Health Organization,” Hernandez said. “There have not been events like this in 102 years.”

Hernandez pleaded with voters who are under age 60, haven’t traveled recently, are working from home or home from college, to consider signing up as a judge at their local polling place.

Despite the concerns and orders for members of the public not to congregate in large groups, elections officials say it’s not up to them to determine if the primary should be postponed.

“Election officials across the state are in a Catch-22,” Allen said. “We are under orders to conduct and election. End of story. Period. If we say anything now to raise doubts about whether tomorrow’s election is safe, we stand accused of violating the law and undermining turnout and discouraging voters from exercising their right to vote.”

Sunday evening the board issued an updated list of polling locations, about 8% of which had been changed. Voters are advised to check their polling place by entering their address at before leaving for the polls.

Our politics team of Carol Marin, Amanda Vinicky and Paris Schutz digs into this story and more in this week’s roundtable.

Follow us on Twitter: @wttw | @BrandisFriedman@CarolMarin@paschutz@AmandaVinicky 

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