Thirteen has long been considered an unlucky number.
In Bureau County, 13 is a very unlucky number when it comes to the upcoming March 20 primary.
At this point, you see, there are 13 polling places where not enough election judges have signed up to work on Election Day.
Without enough election judges — a minimum of three is required per polling place — Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus will have to shut down those polling places and assign new ones to the voters of the affected precincts.
It could be a logistical nightmare all around — for the voters who would have to travel longer distances to the polls, and for the election judges in the remaining polling places who would have to contend with additional voters from other communities.
Here are the 13 precincts that lack the minimum of three election judges: Clarion Township, Fairfield Township, Ohio 2 (Kasbeer), Greenville Township, Westfield 2 (Cherry), Manlius Township, Gold Township, Berlin Township, Macon Township, Hall 4 (Ladd), Hall 5 (Seatonville), Selby 1 (Hollowayville), and Selby 2 and 3 (DePue).
Being an election judge isn’t a piece of cake. You have to work a 15-hour day (5 a.m. until 8 p.m.) on Election Day, for which you are paid $140 if you attend a judge training class.
And you would certainly want to do that to familiarize yourself with the duties of the job: determine who is registered to vote using a laptop computer, hand voters the correct ballots, handle machines that read voters’ ballots, keep election materials secure, tally reports at the end of the day, and return supplies to the courthouse in Princeton.
“It’s not an easy job, but very critical to the whole process,” Hieronymus said.
At first, we were surprised that so many polling places lacked enough judges. But on second thought, knowing that election judges are often retirees, and that old age eventually catches up with everyone, it’s not so surprising.
Older citizens have traditionally shouldered this important responsibility. Clearly what’s needed are younger reinforcements.
We encourage community leaders — village officials, township officials, county board members and the like — in the affected areas to make a concerted effort to ask their friends and neighbors to sign up to be election judges.
Democratic and Republican party officials should also encourage people they know to step forward to help.
Who could do it? Recent retirees who have time on their hands. Homemakers. Farmers. Employed persons interested enough in the electoral process that they would take a vacation day off from work to pitch in.
This is not just the county clerk’s problem. It is a problem for everyone in the county, particularly for people who would normally vote in the polling places that face closure.
We encourage people in Kasbeer, Cherry, Ladd, Seatonville, Hollowayville and DePue, and in the townships of Clarion, Fairfield, Greenville, Manlius, Gold, Berlin and Macon, to step forward and fill election judge vacancies.
If they don’t, Election Day could prove inconvenient for people who expect to vote in those 13 polling places, and unlucky for the cause of democracy in Bureau County.
— Bureau County Republican Editorial Board