The DuPage County clerk anticipates turnout in the 2020 general election could be the largest in history, so the office is working with a group of volunteers to get ready.
All seven League of Women Voters chapters in DuPage County are helping the clerk's office recruit up to 4,000 judges it expects to need to run elections next March and November. Members also are increasing outreach and registration efforts at nursing homes and senior living facilities throughout the county, Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said.
"We have mutual goals -- increasing voter registration, making voting accessible to everyone, recruiting election judges and also educating the public," Kaczmarek said. "So I figure we might as well be working together."
League of Women Voters chapters from Aurora, the Downers Grove area, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Roselle/Bloomingdale and Wheaton are coordinating with the clerk's office to ensure the dissolution of the former DuPage Election Commission goes smoothly, said Barb Laimins, a member of the Wheaton club.
"Our big concern is 2020, which we anticipate to be a bigger election turnout than even 2018 in the DuPage County area," Laimins said. "So we really just want to make sure that this consolidation results in a good, smooth election process."
The DuPage County Board voted in January to dissolve the election commission into the clerk's office, despite a request from Kaczmarek to wait until after the April 2 election.
Kaczmarek said Wednesday the transition is going well as her office hires staff members who proved their expertise during recent elections and prepares its budget for next year. The office hopes to buy new electronic poll books to speed the voter check-in process and keep pace with same-day voter registration.
But the main focus is preparing for an election year in which Kaczmarek said record turnout is expected nationwide and locally.
"I do believe that will happen," she said.
In the November 2018 election, 2,700 election judges worked 16-hour days helping the county staff polling places, Kaczmarek said. With up to 4,000 needed next year, League of Women Voters members say they will help fill the void.
"We are encouraging people to go and do their part for democracy, serve your country, serve your county and be an election judge. It's a long day, but it's important," said Becky Simon with the Naperville league, speaking from experience. "You meet a lot of people you would never meet otherwise and everyone brings good food. I think I gained weight."
Laimins said clubs will recruit judges from a variety of community groups as well as schools, encouraging new 18-year-olds to help others do their civic duty.
The clubs also will be splitting up the 47 nursing homes and senior living facilities in the county so members can ensure facility directors have the voting resources they need. Kaczmarek said this might mean club members will conduct registration drives or provide the proper paperwork so facility staff can register voters.
These efforts in advance of the 2020 elections are nonpartisan, League of Women Voters members say.
"Our idea of winning an election," Simon said, "is educating voters and increasing voter turnout."