Inspector of Elections (IOE) and Judge of Elections (JOE)Edit
It's an easy to do, twice-a-year job. All we need are willing candidates.
Ponder a role for yourself.Edit
In 2013, we hold elections for Inspectors of Elections and Judge of Elections.
Activists should have an understanding of these grass-roots roles.
You consider it for yourself. Edit
Some might suggest that these offices are a waste of time and effort. The reasoning is that we need activists on the outside of the polling places rather than the inside. Putting good people inside the polls doesn't help as much as them being outside the polls promoting candidates and being a candidate for higher offices.
But one thing that Judges and Inspectors of Election can do from inside the polls is to watch for problems with electronic voting machines, and for other problems, and report them to officials and advocacy groups like VotePA.us , and to the public. Outside workers, candidates, and political activists do not have the access to see what is actually going on that Judges of Election and Inspectors do.
Judges of Election and Inspectors are the only candidates in the PA Constitution and laws that are specifically elected for the purpose of working with elections. (Other than the City Commissioners in Philadelphia.) Even our Secretary of the Commonwealth is appointed, as are Election Bureau Directors, and others who work in election offices. And while County Commissioners and County Council members, who make up county Boards of Election, are in fact elected, they actually have many other duties -- not specifically elections only like Judges and Inspectors of Election.
It takes all types. Different strokes for different folks. Some are well suited to local duties. Others are better suited to global duties. Perhaps you can't take off work. Or, perhaps you need to care for a parent or a child at home and these election day duties would not fit your lifestyle in these years. For others, it is a worthy way to engage yourself.
Some suggest the need for a concerted effort to capture as many of these local precinct slots as possible. Political party activists should rush to fill roles about elections. A primary goal is to get good people elected and appointed to public office.
IOE and JOE are pretty easy to win. There are innumerable benefits to serving in these offices.
For upstars, it might be of great value to say we ran a dozen candidates and all won their election. Perhaps this comes from a men's group, a church group, a scout group or even a political party -- such as the Libertarians or Greens or Socialists. If a group wants to make a statement and a splash by proving that they are election players, these roles present golden opportunities.
Serving in public office is a feather in one's cap, regardless of the level.
- For example, when Ken Krawchuk ran for PA's Governor he noted: "A lot of people would say that they agree with my views, but that they wouldn't vote for me because we Libertarians never win. But when I told them that we had four Libertarians serving in public office in my home town of Abington, about a dozen in Montgomery County, over 70 in Pennsylvania, and over 600 nationally, that would give them pause. When I'd say that we outnumber all the other third parties put together, that cemented us solidly in their minds as THE number three party."
- The Greens have also recently been trying for these low-hanging-fruit offices, based on the prior successes from the Libertarians.
There are almost 10,000 precincts in Pennsylvania. Each has a Judge and two Inspectors of Elections. An incredible number of precincts have NO ONE running for IoE or JoE at all.
Winning Local Office and the First Rung on the Political LadderEdit
The most local of all elected offices here in Pennsylvania are the Inspectors of Elections and the Judges of Elections.
The Judge of Elections is the person responsible for running your local polling place on election day twice a year. To assist in this task, there are also two Inspectors of Elections who, by law, must belong to differing political parties. The candidate who receives the most votes becomes the Majority Inspector, and the first runner up becomes the Minority Inspector.
In an unbelievable number of cases, one or the other (sometimes both) of the old parties fail to nominate any candidate for these positions, and even if they do, they often fail to campaign for the position. With almost 10,000 polling places scattered across Pennsylvania, this presents a golden quadrennial opportunity for smaller parties to elect literally hundreds of candidates to partisan office.
- The first attempted on an organized basis in Montgomery County in 1997 netted impressive results. Twelve Libertarians were elected to partisan public office, more than any other county in the entire nation.
A smaller party's benefits of pursuing the most-local of all elected offices go beyond dramatically increasing the number of elected party members in Pennsylvania. More importantly, it puts them in political contact with their opponents, giving valuable visibility while giving the public a chance to get to know the party better.
Through participation in the local political process, demonstrate to the old parties that new comers are serious about serving in government, that we care about democracy in our neighborhoods, and that we don't have three heads. It shouts to them that third parties are ready for political prime time.
Qualifications for OfficeEdit
The rule of thumb is that if you can register to vote, you can serve.
In order to run for Inspector of Elections or Judge of Elections, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old on election day;
- Be registered to vote;
- Not be a government employee at any level;
- Not cross-file.
In most cases, past legal difficulties are no bar to running or serving.
Duties of the OfficesEdit
The Judges and Inspectors of Elections each serve only two days a year for a 4-year term, and the county provides all necessary training and manuals.
A typical election day for the local precinct officials runs from 6:30 AM until the vote count is complete, usually around 9 PM, with time off for meals and occasional breaks.
As the person in command of the polling place, the duties of the Judge of Elections are as follows:
- Pick up the voter registration binder and other paperwork from a designated place;
- Verify the voting machine serial numbers against the keys and documentation;
- Swear in the poll workers, assign duties and have them sign their oaths of office;
- Schedule relief periods and fill any vacancies in the poll staff;
- Set up the polling place and machines;
- Open the doors promptly at 7 AM;
- Spend the day helping neighbors vote;
- Close the polls promptly at 8 PM;
- Tally the votes and seal the machines;
- Prepare and post the official returns;
- Return all voting materials to the designated site.
- For the day's effort, a Judge of Elections is paid $120, but it varies from county to county.
Here is an organization dedicated to promoting pollworking, and to networking pollworkers between elections: www.pollworkersforpennsylvania.org
As the assistants to the Judge of Elections, duties of the Inspectors of Elections:Edit
- Arrive at the polling place by 6:30 AM on each election day;
- Be sworn in and sign the oath of office (The Minority Inspector swears in the Judge of Elections);
- Assist the Judge in preparing and opening the polling place;
- Perform duties assigned by the Judge;
- Spend the day helping neighbors vote;
- Close the polls promptly at 8 PM;
- Assist the Judge in the tally of votes, the preparation and posting of the official returns.
- For the day's effort, an Inspector of Elections is paid $90 but it varies from county to county.
Running for Neighborhood OfficeEdit
There are two ways to run your campaign for Inspector or Judge of Elections: petition to get your name on the ballot, or conduct a write-in campaign. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks.
Petitioning involves collecting signatures from registered voters in your precinct, usually only about a dozen or so, then submitting some simple paperwork to your county Election Board by the first of August. Assuming everything is filled out properly, your name will then appear on the November ballot.
For a write-in campaign, nothing needs to be done in advance. Come election day, supporters simply cast their write-in ballots.
One of the biggest advantages of a write-in campaign over petitioning is its stealth aspect. In the case where there's no old-party candidate on the ballot, you could win with only a single write-in vote -- your own. This happened in almost half the victories in MontCo in 1997.
The drawback to a write-in campaign is that fewer people are likely to vote for you (especially if you have an unusual last name). So a write-in campaign works best when there is no other candidate for a given office.
The main advantage to having your name on the ballot is that it's much easier for people to vote for you. Having any candidate on the ballot also increases the credibility and visibility ofyour party, win or lose.
Regardless of which sort of campaign you run, there are certain sure-fire tricks that can further boost your vote totals.
Distributing flyers in your neighborhood always helps, but knocking on doors in the weeks before the election is the best way to find votes. Experience shows that you'll receive roughly twice as many votes if you have a volunteer handing out literature in front of your polling place on election day, and doubles again if the candidate is there to personally greet the voters.
It's also likely that the incumbent (if there is one) is working inside the poll where campaigning is prohibited, making your victory all that much easier.
Do You Have Any Opposition?Edit
All it takes is a brief phone call to your county Election Board to find out if you have any opposition in your precinct for Inspector or Judge of Elections.
If you want to identify all the open races in your town or county, or if you need petitions or other paperwork, count on paying a visit to your Election Board. The final list of candidates and open offices is usually available a week or two after the primary election, sometimes sooner. If you ask for a copy of the list (paper or electronic), there is likely to be a nominal charge, so come prepared to take notes if you don't want to pay for it.
While you're there, you may want to take some time to review the voter registration rolls to seek out registered party members who may be interested in running for the open slots you uncover.
One interesting facet of the positions of Inspector and Judge of Elections is that should you decide to step down (for whatever reason) before the end of your term, all is not lost. If you can't serve the entire term, you have the right to appoint your successor. The seat belongs to the same party for the entire 4-year term.
Like the first rung on any ladder to success, the neighborhood political offices of Inspector and Judge of Elections are a modest, but essential foundation for the growth of a party. Success at higher levels will come much easier once we succeed in convincing our neighbors that we deserve their trust and respect. And the best way we can earn that respect is to climb into the political trenches alongside the two old parties and dirty our hands with the machinery of state. All it takes is a willing candidate.