Northside Students Work Through The November Midterms
By Joshua Savitzky
The administration of the midterm elections required a lot of volunteers to ensure that they ran smoothly; those working the desks at the polling place were likely people from the neighborhood or maybe even Northside students. The thousands of student volunteers from across Chicago working for Mikva Challenge required training with the equipment and processes that they used on Election Day on Nov. 6.
The election judges were responsible for opening and closing the polling place, registering new voters, confirming voters, and dealing with conflicts that arose during the day. This required a four hour-training program provided by Mikva Challenge and the Chicago Board of Elections that helped to prepare students for the challenges that they would face. Additionally, they were all given a guidebook that detailed the steps required for set up and resolving conflict that the judges had on hand. “The guidebook really saved my precinct,” said Sergio Gonzales, Adv. 006. “The instructions were clear enough that I could understand what to do and tell others what to do.”
Before Election Day, students were asked to communicate with their fellow precinct judges to prepare the polling place in advance. This included supply checks, setting up poll booths, and dealing with any other last-minute concerns.
On Election Day, the judges woke up early in order to be at their polling places by 5 a.m. The judges had to set up quickly because the polls opened at 6 a.m. This included the technical process of setting up the electronic booth and electronic poll books. At exactly 6 a.m., the first voters started entering precincts across the city. “No one knew what they were doing, and with how complicated everything was, it took us a while to get everything together,” said Gonzales, commenting on his experience.
Election Day had two big rushes of voters: one with those in the morning who voted before work, and the other who came in after their workday ended. In between those rushes, judges were asked to bring reading material or other work.
At 7 p.m., the polling places began to close. The judges had forms to sign, equipment to pack up, and other tasks, such as reporting the results to the Chicago Board of Elections where the results for the statewide and citywide elections would be tallied. Afterward, the judges had time to reflect on their experience, having taken 15 or more hours of their day to work in this election. The day was long, but an important part of one’s civic duty. Election judges were additionally able to bring home a variety of stories to tell their family and friends. “People who have more experience than you can go a long way in fixing the holes in your understanding,” said Andrejun Agsalud, Adv. 902, “Most people understood the directions as long as you were very clear, but there were still the few that needed assistance. I realized I can’t really communicate with some people when something important comes up. I’m grateful to have had 2 bilingual judges with me because of how diverse the city is. I really appreciate the people who bridge the gap caused by different languages and cultures.”
Judges were paid a minimum of $140 for their work with an additional $60 for attending the training course and more for extra duties including being the Key or Cellphone judge. Any students who wish to volunteer as an election judge for the February Municipal Elections should contact the Northside Mikva Challenge chapter and visit the website www.chipollworker.com for more information.