In anticipation of a high voter turnout for the Nov. 8 elections, the Cook County clerk's office wants teenagers — even those who can't legally vote yet — to help staff polling sites in 1,599 suburban precincts.
To vote in Illinois, residents must be age 18 by the general election date. But to work as an election judge, a prospective worker has to be at least a junior in high school with a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average. The student also must be recommended by their school principal and have parental consent.
Kimberly Gray, an election judge coordinator for the county clerk's office, appeared Thursday before the school board for Consolidated High School District 218 at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, making a plea for school officials to nominate young people who might be interested in working as election judges.
School Board President Thomas Kosowski said he would have the principals at Richards High School, Shepard High School in Palos Heights and Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, come up with names of potential student election judges.
"I think this would be a great experience for our students," Kosowski said.
Gray said Cook County is trying to get away from the public image of election judges who are senior citizens and would consider young people to be a particular plus if they have technological skills.
With modern computer devices being used to collect ballots and count votes, "this isn't your grandfather's election anymore," Gray said. "Many of the seniors (citizens) aren't that tech savvy, and we need to have election judges who are tech savvy."
She said high school students likely would not qualify for the equipment manager position at a polling place because that person mostly likely would have had previous experience working at a polling site. The equipment manager is in charge of setting up a polling place, then taking it down when voting is complete.
But the election judge position would include tasks such as handling voting booths when technological glitches occur.
Since 2008, high school juniors have been eligible to serve as poll workers. But this year high school students are being actively recruited. There have only been a few high school students poll workers in the past, said Jim Scalzitti, a spokesman for the Cook Clerk's Office.
People wishing to apply for an election judge position can file an application on-line atwww.cookcountyclerk.comand can sign up for a training course that would be offered by the county clerk's office later this summer.
"It ain't rocket science," Gray said of the training. "We just need people to do the work."
Gray said people are needed both as election judges and also for a backup pool of people who are called upon to fill in for judges who fail to show up for their Election Day duties.
Gray said election judges are paid $175 for the day's work, while the equipment managers receive $325.
Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.