Voting day — Nov. 6, this year — isn’t a one-day affair.
For Sue Wessels, Deputy City Clerk in Redwood Falls, voting day started last April, when she began lining up election judges.
“I’m planning on five for each precinct, and three for the registration desk,” she said.
For years, elections in Redwood Falls were supervised by Elaine Jenniges, assisted by Wessels. With Jenniges’s retirement earlier this year, Wessels is in charge.
“It was scary doing the primary all by myself this year, but it was a good trial run,” Wessels said.
Adding to the commotion, this year also sees elections for city offices, and for the local school board.
“We (at the city) don’t have anything to do with the school board elections, but it will be on the same ballot,” Wessels said.
Local residents who wanted to run for office only had a short window of opportunity to make their intentions official, just a week or so in July and August.
On Aug. 17, Wessels notified the county auditor’s office so the names could be included on the ballots.
The ballots themselves come from the county auditor’s office. Each township and city in the county is responsible for its own elections.
As for where the elections are actually held, it’s a non-issue these days.
“The Redwood Area Community Center has been reserved for years into the future,” said Wessels. “In spring, I just call Jackie at the RACC to make sure that day is reserved.”
The city doesn’t have to pay to rent the RACC for election days, since RACC is also owned by the city.
Absentee voting is handled out of the county auditor’s office, with one exception.
“Nursing homes are the only absentee voting the city does,” said Wessels. “On Nov. 1, we’ll send three election judges to Sunwood and Wood Dale to do absentee voting.”
The judges will also have to carry registration materials with them, in case any residents need to update their information, or register for the first time.
Absentee voting ends the day before the election.
“There’s no absentee voting on election day itself,” Wessels said.
A major part of the deputy city clerk’s job is making sure the voting machines are all working properly.
Several days before the election, Wessels and other city clerks run sample ballots through the machines to make sure they tote up the results correctly.
The public is invited to watch the tests, to make sure everything is on the up and up.
Page 2 of 2 - In addition to making sure the computer in the box works, the judges must make sure the boxes are completely empty, clear the memory card, and verify the date and time are correct.
On Nov. 6, Wessels and three election judges — working with the RACC custodial staff — will set up the voting booths and ballot machines.
Needless to say, there are entire books full of federal and state instructions for how the voting stations are supposed to be set up.
There will literally be people on their hands and knees with measuring tapes, making sure the lines of green tape are exactly six feet from the ballot machines.
“No one is allowed within six feet of a voter putting ballots in the box, unless the voter requests assistance,” said Wessels. “Then an election judge can come over to help.”
The election judges are provided with chairs, snacks, and both lunch and supper.
However, when a judge wants to take a break, the rules dictate the remaining judges must be of differing parties.
It helps keep down accusations of funny business going on if there are always members of both parties in the room at the same time.
For example, if there are two Republican election judges and two Democratic election judges in a precinct station, the two members of one party can’t take a break and leave the room at the same time.
Election judges are also trained in curbside voting. Voters who are unable to leave their car are still able to vote outside, with at least two judges of different party affiliations attending.
On Nov. 6, the election judges arrive at 6 a.m. They have to give the official election judge oath, then verify the ballot machines are empty and working properly yet again.
At 7 a.m. the doors open, the public is allowed in, and the election day officially begins.
For Wessels, it’s the culmination of nearly eight months work.
“Then I get to relax,” she said.