With 5 days between us and the spring election, a recurring feeling has been, "Where have all the supervising judges gone?"
The supervising judge is the person in charge of the polling place and we're scrambling to fill 175 slots for Tuesday. We have about 30 new supervising judges, election workers taking on this expanded responsibility, for this election.
Not too long ago--in 2012--we had 275 working in the November presidential election.
We had 182 in the November 2014 election.
We've lost supervising judges through attrition, but as we consolidated polling places, it wasn't a concern. Now, it is, and will be one, majorly, heading into 2016.
We'll be taking a new approach, having promoted a new person to the assistant election commissioner role over this area and soon to be filling the election worker manager position with a seasoned veteran who has worked at Wyandotte County and will be coming back to Johnson County where he worked 8 years ago.
The goal will be to create a supervising judge and a deputy supervising judge at each polling place.
That's not to say it's an achievable goal, but is definitely an aspirational one. That way, should we lose a supervising judge as we come down to the wire (illness, travel, family emergency, etc.), we'll have someone trained and ready to step in.
This will require two major pushes: 1) an exhaustive recruitment of new workers and 2) regular training beginning this summer to prepare this new crop for next year. We never have trained workers out of cycle, but we will need to as we seek to add about 800 workers in general for 2016.
Part of the shortage is a simple fallout of workers who retire following a November election. Also, though, the reduction in polling places seemed like a trend that would continue, and it did--but we hit the nub in 2014. 182 is the minimum we can have for a November election.
But that's the gubernatorial election. We are expecting an 80 percent turnout in 2016 and, right now, with advance voting sites unknown and prospects reduced because the improving economy reduces potential vacant storefronts that can be used as advance sites, we're going to need every polling place (and election worker) we can get.
The situation also illuminates one thing we desperately need out of the potential pending state legislation to move spring elections to the fall. Whether it passes to move them to the fall of odd or even years (we prefer odd), we're hoping the requirement that schools keeping children out of schools on election day is vital.
If it's a holiday or teacher workday, either way we'd get the use of the school as a polling place.
As a point of reference, of the 175 polling places we are using in this election, only 2 are schools.
Schools represent a major upside potential in our expansion plans for 2016.
If only there was such low-hanging fruit for supervising judges.