Student election judges sought to quell shortage

Elizabeth Putnam

Although Election Day and the hassles it can bring seem far away, the search for election judges to make the process run smoothly has already begun.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer is calling for college students to help alleviate an anticipated statewide shortage of judges this fall. Roughly 30,000 judges are needed for a general election.

Kiffmeyer kicked off College Student Election Judge Recruitment Month last week in an effort to attract younger judges and create a welcoming atmosphere for young voters.

“College students especially make good election judges because they have the stamina to do it,” she said.

Nicky Yerbich, a political science junior, said she became an election judge to better understand the voting process.

“It shows the public that we do more than just talk,” Yerbich said. “It makes an impact on others.”

She said the time commitment is worth it because it’s a paid position and she gets a heads-up on the results.

“You get to know the outcome of your precinct before everyone else,” Yerbich said.

Election judges work at a precinct in the district in which they are registered to vote. Judges work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the day of the vote and are responsible for all election materials.

“For college students, a one-day paying job seems ideal for them,” Kiffmeyer said.

Brad Martin, a member of the Student Legislative Coalition who has worked with Kiffmeyer to mobilize students, said the goal is to get students involved in the democratic process.

“If you get young people involved, it possibly could add a new dimension and vitalize elections as a whole,” Martin said.

Kiffmeyer said students who help in the polling place would be good resources on campus and could encourage other students to vote.

“Folks take more time to get their hair cut, get the oil changed in their car, pick out a video, than it will ever take to vote,” she said.

Current judges, whose average age is 70, have a “World War II mentality” and already want to help their country, Kiffmeyer said.

“I think we have another opportunity here since Sept. 11 to take advantage of that situation and reach out to the younger generation again,” she said.

Students can apply by contacting the Secretary of State’s Office to request a brochure.

“Being an election judge is a good, tangible way for students to demonstrate their seriousness and their leadership abilities,” Martin said.

Elizabeth Putnam welcomes comments at [email protected]