Hundreds of election judges needed
Montgomery trying to fill 521 slots, including 300 Republicans, for Feb. 12
The county still needs more than 500 election judges to work polls for the upcoming elections, even though the primary is less than one month away.
The problem is not unique to Montgomery, as areas throughout the nation are finding it tougher to staff polling places. And in this Democratic state, it’s even tougher to find enough Republican voters to work, election administrators say.
‘‘It’s always a struggle,” said Ross Goldstein, the State Board of Elections’ deputy administrator. ‘‘It’s one of the biggest challenges they face. It’s a very long day. You have to be there before the polls open and stay after they close. It’s definitely a challenge to get people to sign up for it.”
Montgomery County — the state’s largest jurisdiction — still needs 521 election judges, of which 300 slots need to be filled by Republicans, said Marjorie Roher, spokeswoman for the county Board of Elections. The county usually tries to have at least 3,200 judges at the polls, she said.
‘‘It’s a significant commitment, and it requires someone who is willing to take a leadership role at their polling places,” Roher said. ‘‘We need to have people comfortable with the technology in the polling places.”
Still, the spots need to be filled. To help fill the vacancies, elections administrators have paid for ads in newspapers and published the listing on popular Web sites, such as Facebook and craigslist, for example, to get more young people involved.
But with the Feb. 12 primary looming, administrators remain optimistic that they will have enough election judges in time.
‘‘We knew that it was going to be a challenge,” Roher said. ‘‘We’ve heard from other places outside of the county that they were having the same challenge. It’s a very real situation across the country.”
The Montgomery County Board of Elections hopes to avoid the events of the 2006 primary, when county leaders asked the board’s top two officials to resign because of election day mishaps.
It was the first time election officials used new ‘‘e-poll books” to register votes. The devices erroneously listed some residents as having voted already. Elections workers also did not deliver plastic voter access cards in time, forcing some voters to use provisional ballots until the polling places ran out of them.
The snafus led to top county officials calling for the resignations of elections director Margaret Jurgensen and elections board chairwoman Nancy Dacek. Jurgensen is still director; Dacek completed her term as chairwoman and is now secretary of the board.
In Prince George’s, its board of elections still needs 450 election judges — all Republican voters — before next month’s primary. But in the majority black county, it may be a stretch to get that many Republican judges in time, said Alisha L. Alexander, the county’s elections administrator.
It’s typically easier to find Republican election judges in areas outside the Capital Beltway, like Bowie or Laurel, Alexander said.
‘‘We have more than enough Democrats. Republicans are the issue,” she said.
That many vacancies are ‘‘about average” for a primary, Alexander said. Until then, the county elections board will keep pressing for judges.
‘‘We are continuing to advertise. We receive calls every day, and we have an ad that ran in the Penny Saver. It’s just a matter of seeing where we are.”
During the September 2006 primary, the county had only about 190 technicians show up to serve the 206 precincts. On election night, 136 precincts were unable to transmit their data electronically.
Staff Writer Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.