By Myers Reece, 3-26-12
||Caption: Nathan Wagner, left, and Jesi Roedel help people check in to vote at the Flathead County Fairgrounds in the 2010 primary election. - File photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
The Flathead County Election Department is looking for election judges to work at polling places throughout the county during upcoming elections.
Monica Eisenzimer, the county’s recording and election services manager, said people interested in becoming a paid election judge – or poll worker – must fill out an application and complete a three-hour training session. The sessions are held April 9-13.
Participants receive a $25 stipend for completing the training course and are paid for their work on election day, with wages starting at $8.75 an hour. School elections are held on May 8, primaries are on June 5 and the general election is on Nov. 6.
Eisenzimer said generally five people work at each polling place, meaning a primary or general election would require more than 200 election judges all together countywide. The department is looking for poll workers throughout the county, but especially for Olney, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Bigfork.
Even people who have worked as election judges in the past need to get recertified every two years, Eisenzimer said.
“We’re always needing judges,” Eisenzimer said. “When it comes election time, things come up – emergencies – and we need replacements. The elections have to go on.”
Marlene Kilpatrick has worked at the Lakeside precinct 13 polling place for about 30 years and says it’s continually rewarding. She encourages people who have never been a poll worker to try it out.
“It’s a very worthwhile experience,” Kilpatrick said. “I think that it’s a privilege to feel that you can be a part of the election process.”
Election judges have a variety of responsibilities on election day. First they prepare the polling place, setting up necessary equipment and materials. Then throughout the day they are responsible for issuing ballots, assisting voters and ensuring voting procedures are properly followed.
At the end of the day, election judges close the polls and complete whatever tasks are left, including packing and returning election materials.
Kilpatrick said the day is long, beginning around 6 a.m. – an hour before the polls open – and stretching past poll closing at 8 p.m. But Kilpatrick reminds that the duty only comes up a couple of times a year, if that, and it’s well worth the long days.
“It’s just a good feeling to know that you’re participating in something so important,” she said.
On April 2, the election department is moving its offices to the Flathead County Fairgrounds Kitchen. Voter registration and absentee voting will take place at the new location.
Applications for the training session are available at the election department or on the department’s website at www.flathead.mt.gov/election. They are due by April 9, but the earlier the better, Eisenzimer said.
For more information, call (406) 758-5535.
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