Election judges perform an important community service. People with disabilities shouldn’t rule out serving as election judges.
Many counties and cities seek judges, especially during state election and presidential years. 2021 might be a year for potential volunteers throughout Minnesota to check out their polling places in person while voting. If a head judge isn’t busy it’s a good chance to ask a few questions and submit one’s name for future consideration.
Access Press is partnering with Ramsey County Elections to publicize voting November 2, and to spotlight how people with disabilities can get involved in elections. David Triplett, Ramsey County Elections Manager, spoke about the opportunities people with disabilities have as election judges.
That opportunity may be in the future. Ramsey County already has enough judges for the 2021 election, Triplett said. He encourages people with disabilities to look into opportunities for future years in Ramsey County and for people elsewhere in Minnesota to check their home counties for needs this fall. Election judges work in their home counties.
It was “all hands on deck” for the 2020 presidential election and many election judges continued on throughout the state.
“If we know about a disability, we can provide accommodations for judges,” Triplett said. Ramsey County has judges with different disabilities and is able to provide an array of accommodations.
Judges fill a variety of roles. Head judges oversee a precinct and make sure everything runs smoothly. Registration judges help people register to vote at the polls.
Other judges assist voters when they sign in, give them ballots in exchange for ballot receipts and perform other tasks. Some voters are trained to assist voters with disabilities in getting their ballots casts.
All judges keep a sharp eye on the polling place to make sure procedures are followed and that there is not improper influence of voters.
Prospective election judges must be eligible to vote in Minnesota and able to read, write and speak English. Students 16 and 17 years-old can be election judge trainees. Triplett said the student judge option is a great way for young people to get involved and serve their communities. “It’s something that is a fairly new option and it’s good opportunity for young people.”
Student election judges can work as election judge trainees, receive training and be paid for their work. It’s a great way to learn about elections and voting. Students cannot work past 10 p.m. they are assigned the same duties as other judges, with the exception of tasks requiring party affiliation. Students will need to attend and complete the same training as other judges.
To qualify, students must be 16 or 17 on or before Election Day, be a U.S. citizen in good academic standing at a Minnesota high school (or home schooled), and get permission from parents and school.
According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, there are restrictions on having relatives serve together as election judges. A relative is defined as a spouse, parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, sibling or stepsibling. Relatives cannot serve together in the same precinct at the same time. In addition, relatives of a candidate, and anyone who temporarily or permanently lives in the same house as a candidate, cannot serve in the precinct where the candidate is on the ballot.
Candidates cannot serve in a precinct where they are on the ballot.
Judges can be paid or can served as volunteers. the compensation varies by community. More experienced election judges, such as Head Judges, usually earn more than entry level election judges. Student trainees must be paid no less than two-thirds of the minimum wage.
All judges go through training. Training was long offered in-person only. Many community, including Ramsey county, now offer online training that judges can take during a set time period. Training takes about two hours and judges can be quizzed on what the have learned.
Judges can opt to work primary and general elections, or just at general elections. more volunteers are typically needed for general elections every November. the work day schedule is 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with some places offering half-days. Triplett said the half-day option in Ramsey County is good for elders and people with disabilities who may not be able to work a full day.
“We work to be as flexible as we can and to schedule people with the half-day option,” he said.
Judges can bring food and beverages to polling places. It’s best to ask a head judge for a meal break, rather than eating at a work table. Any medication needed during the day should also be brought along. Duties typically involve a lot of sitting so if needed, think about a chair pillow or something to make sitting easier.
The Minnesota Secretary of State office also reminds everyone hat election judges have the right to time off from work to serve. Employers are required to give election judges time off from work to be an election judge without a reduction in pay. That means meeting certain qualifications.
An employer must be notified in writing at least 20 days in advance of election day. Attach a copy of the schedule and pay rate form to the written notice. The schedule and pay rate will be provided by the jurisdiction that hires you as an election judge.
“Without a reduction in pay” means the election judge gets to earn at least the same amount they would have, had they gone to work that day. In practice, this means an employer can ask an election judge to turn over the amount earned as an election judge during hours they would have normally been scheduled to work, or the employer can deduct that amount from normal pay.
Election judges can also opt to take a vacation day to be fully paid by the employer and receive the judge salary earned as extra income. But that is the election judge’s choice. An employer cannot force someone to take vacation or any other form of paid leave.
The Minnesota Secretary of State website has a form that can be printed off and given to an employer to explain an employee’s right to receive time off to serve as an election judge.
Interested in being an election judge? The Minnesota Secretary of State offers lots of good information online, as well as links to counties and cities to sign up as election judges. Go to https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/
Visit Ramsey County Elections at https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/elections-voting