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With nearly 25,000 registered voters in Isanti County, election judges are a critical part of ensuring Election Day runs smoothly.
During the Isanti County Board meeting July 1, Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Chad Struss explained Isanti County uses over 250 election judges. With the primary election coming up on Aug. 11 and the general election on Nov. 3, election judges are still needed.
“We need election judges in Isanti County,” Struss said. “It’s so important. Of all the things we do in the county, I would put elections right up there at the top as one of the most important functions of our government in our democracy. We really need those election judges to have the fair elections and to make sure everything runs smoothly on Election Day.”
Struss explained the municipalities appoint the election judges while the auditor-treasurer office provides the training. This year, the training will be done only online, and election judges can serve in any precinct.
The following qualifications are required to be an election judge:
• Eligible to vote in Minnesota.
• Able to read, write, and speak English.
• Not a candidate on the ballot in that precinct.
• Not a relative of a candidate on the ballot in that precinct.
• Must not live with any candidate on the ballot in that precinct.
Struss encourages anyone interested in becoming an election judge to contact his office, and if someone is unsure what precinct they live in, his office can help with that as well.
“If you do know someone that’s interested and they’re not sure, they can always contact me and my office and we’ll direct them to the right township or city and get them signed up if they’re needed. If they’re not needed in the township they live in, we can direct them to another township maybe that needs judges,” Struss said.
Struss said his office spends around $100,000 on ballots and supplies during election years.
Due to COVID-19, polling places will all have personal protective equipment and supplies including hand sanitizer, disinfectants, masks, gloves and disinfecting wipes. Struss said all voting booths will be disinfected after each voter, plexiglass barriers will be in place for election judges who are signing up same-day voters, and social distancing will be in effect at all polling locations.
“With COVID-19, obviously the election process is a pretty high-touch, close-contact process, and so we kind of dedicated ourselves this year in doing everything we can; I think this is statewide,” Struss said. “I know the Secretary of State has put a ton of effort into what can we do to keep our co-workers safe, our election judges safe and the voters too.”
Struss said the polling locations will be safe for voting.
“We’ll do what we can to keep it safe,” Struss said. “One thing I’ve stressed to the clerks is it’s more important that people be able to vote safely than vote quickly. We’ll get everybody through the line. Everybody that’s in line by 8 p.m. when the polls close will get a chance to vote. And I don’t care if we have to stay up till 1 or 2 a.m.; frankly we usually do anyways on Election Day to get all those votes counted. As long as people feel comfortable voting is our main goal for this year.”
Struss said he strongly encouraged the township clerks to have their election judges wear masks on Election Day, but ultimately it’s the clerk’s decision at their respective polling locations.
“I do think it’s important that all voters feel safe coming into the polling place, and if masks help even one voter feel like they can come in and cast their ballot, I think that’s a small price to pay,” Struss said. “I’ll leave that somewhat up to the townships and cities what they want to do, but I do strongly, strongly encourage it.”
As far as the pens voters use to mark their ballots, Struss said they are looking at having voters just keep their pens or having someone disinfect the pens after voters have used them.
“I feel pretty good about our plan. I do feel it’ll be safe to vote in person if people choose to,” Struss said. “I think the message has been well received by the townships and cities; they’re concerned too, and they want to keep everything sanitized.”
If voters don’t want to vote in person on Election Day, in person absentee voting is taking place at the Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Office now through Aug. 10 for the primary election and will take place Sept. 18 through Nov. 2 for the general election. Voters also have the option of utilizing mail absentee voting.
“I’d like to, as always, commend my staff; they’ve been fantastic. I was kind of concerned when COVID hit, and obviously everyone has got different personal situations in their life,” Struss said. “We had very few staff that missed any time during this whole pandemic. For the most part they were here every day except for some scheduled things or those appointments and stuff that pop up. I’m really impressed.”
Chair Greg Anderson appreciates all the efforts of the auditor-treasurer office.
“Thanks to you and your staff for all the great work you’re doing and will continue to do. It’ll be an interesting election year to say the least,” Anderson said.
Struss reminded the board that election judges do get paid for their service. For more information on becoming an election judge, contact the Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Office at 763-689-1644.