Jerry Kopel

Election Judges

March 8, 2008

By Jerry Kopel

"Wanted: Alive. Good candidates, male and female, to help in counting votes as election judges in the coming 2008 primary and general elections in Colorado. Must be able to remain alert despite very, very long hours." That's the chatter showing up in various election districts around the state.

Colorado has traditionally treated election judges as "perks" for past political activities in the Democratic and Republican parties with a payment for duties performed. In Denver, the payment is $100.

Some clerks and recorders recognize it's time for a change, that elderly men and women who presently serve as election judges would normally take naps in the afternoon and go to bed by 10 p.m. I speak from experience as one of the elderly.

An Associate Press article recently pointed out the national average age of poll workers is 72. I think in Colorado it may be even older.

But there are alternative choices.

CRS 1-6-101 (7) is a legislative declaration passed in 2000, but rarely used to the extent that is possible. Here is what it states:

"The general assembly hereby finds and declares that in order to promote greater awareness among young people concerning the electoral process, the rights and responsibilities of voters and the importance of citizen participation in public affairs, as well as to provide additional qualified individuals willing and able to assist with the electoral process, qualified students may be allowed to serve as student election judges.

"Therefore it is the intent of the general assembly in enacting this subsection (7) to authorize county clerks and recorders to appoint qualified students to serve as election judges in conformity with the requirements of this section."

Names can be submitted to each clerk and recorder from and by school districts, public or private educational institutions, or as home school students.

They have to be 16 or older, a junior or senior student, in good standing, physically and mentally able to perform the job, not related to anyone running for office whose name appears on the ballot, and the parent or guardian has to give approval.

The best can be chosen by the clerk and recorder, as computer skilled, mentally sharp, physically alert, and mature. In my opinion, they should be required to serve at both the primary and general elections. If the student judge would otherwise be absent by attending a distant college during the November election, he or she should not be chosen.

Students should also have the "perk" of high school class credits for being part of the election teams. They should be willing to participate, at the clerk and recorder's request, in the ballot counting process.

Present law provides a student does not have to be resident of the precinct where he or she serves. That gives the county clerk the ability to amass a large number of student judges for the counting process.

A bill should be passed or added to, to revise the compensation language for election judges found in CRS 1-6-115, to make it mandatory to provide the same compensation for student judges as for other election judges.

If electronic voting machines are part of the 2008 election, let's face facts. Our young men and women can teach county clerks and elderly poll workers a lot more about computers, than vice versa.

And if paper ballots become the key approach for 2008 in Colorado and the electronic counting scanners do not work well, the vitality and stamina of the young men and women will definitely speed up the hand counting process.

County clerks really need to take this route. Our young men and women are eager to get involved this election, and be part of the solution.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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