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The Election Judge who operates the polling place is a very important part of the electoral process. This person is the only contact the Election Office has with the general public during voting hours and is responsible for administering the actual voting procedures in each precinct. Without this individual, it would be impossible to conduct an election.
The ideal election judge will be able to endure long hours on Election Day (about 14 hours) and will deal courteously and patiently with the public and coworkers.
All judges must make sure that qualified voters who are properly registered are able to cast their vote in a trouble free environment. They represent the entire electoral process and may be the only person a voter has contact with when exercising his or her voting rights. Therefore, the Election Judge must be reliable, courteous, and able to follow procedures exactly and, above all, possess good judgment.
Things You Should Know First
Different types of Election Judges
In each precinct, a Democratic and Republican Chief Judge is appointed. These individuals on Election Day are employees of the Election Board who share equally the responsibility of operating the polling place. They must be sure to pick up the supplies needed to conduct election day business, hold a meeting of all Judges the Monday night before an election, check that machines are delivered and the telephone is operating in the polling room, open the polling place on time, guarantee that all procedures are followed in the polling place on election day, supervise the precinct tally of votes cast after the close of the poll, see to it that all forms are properly completed and return the supplies and canvass report to the Election Office. Should a question arise as to the way voting progressed in a precinct, both Chief Election Judges are held accountable.
Those assisting the Chief Judge in a polling place are called Election Judges. The number assigned to each precinct is determined by the number of voting machines and voter registration binders used in each location. In each precinct the Judges are divided into Book Judges and Machine Judges. Book Judges greet the voter and verify that each individual attempting to vote is properly registered. Machine Judges admit the voter into the voting machine and permit the individual to cast his or her vote. Should instruction be needed to show the voter how to use the voting machine, this Judge instructs the voter how to use the equipment. Both Machine Judges and Book Judges must assist the Chief Judges in opening the polling place and canvassing the results of the day's vote. They are under the direct supervision of the Chief Judges.
A Provisional Ballot Judge is assigned to each precinct. This judge is responsible for administering the provisional voting process in the precinct. Under federal law, every voter who claims to be registered and eligible to vote MUST be given an opportunity to vote. A paper ballot must be issued to a voter claiming to be properly registered and whose qualification or entitlement to vote cannot be immediately established upon examination of the precinct register. The Provisional Judge is under the direct supervision of the Chief Judges.
Alternate Election Judge
The individual appointed as an Alternate Election Judge plays a vital part in the election process. All Judges must be appointed months before an election and with about seven months between the Presidential Primary and General Election many reasons occur which cause an appointed Judge to request of the Election Board a release from his or her obligation. A few reasons for such a request could be sickness, personal or for a family member or a sudden change in business responsibility. An Alternate Election Judge receives the same training as a Book Judge or a Machine Judge. The Election Office may call upon an individual serving in this capacity to fill a vacancy prior to an election or Election Day itself. Alternate Election Judges must be available until 7:30 A.M. on Election Day. It is important that one accept appointment as an Alternate Judge only if he or she intends to be available should the need arise to serve.
This judge must be reliable and is responsible for transporting important election material from the polling precinct to the Board of Election on election night. The judge will report to work at the assigned precinct on election night at 6:00 pm and work until approximately 11:00 pm. This individual must be a registered voter in the state of Maryland and have a valid driver's license. Closing judges must be willing to share or drive with another judge from the polling precinct to the Board of Elections. Closing judges shall be paid $100.00 for working and will be paid $25.00 for attending a mandatory training class.
Term of Office
Election Judges are appointed biennially (Election Law Article Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 10-203 (a), Registration and Election Laws of Maryland) thirteen weeks prior to any regularly scheduled primary election and serve until after the general election. Therefore, each person accepting appointment as a Judge should be available for the primary and general election to be held in a given election year.
- A Judge must be able to speak, read and write the English language.
- A Judge may not hold or be a candidate for any other public or political office.
- A Judge may not engage in any party or political activity while on duty in the polling place.
- A Judge is ordinarily appointed among the registered voters who reside in the local jurisdiction where the precinct is located.
For more information, please contact the Election Judge Recruiter at (301) 341-7345 or (301) 341-7300, Monday - Friday, 8:00 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. or
Prince George's County Board of Elections
1100 Mercantile Lane, Suite 115A
Largo, MD 20774
High School Students Can Serve As Election Judges
The state of Maryland permits seventeen year olds who are not registered voters to serve as Election Judges. The minor (who is not a registered voter) must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Local Election board that he or she meets all of the other qualifications for registration in the county. They will complete the registration process, but be held in pending status until they reach 18 (the legal age to vote). Students may elect to earn Student Independent Service Learning hours in lieu of payment. If selected to serve, Student Judges only work 12 hours, between 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Training Sessions for Judges
Maryland law requires all registered voters who desire to become an Election Judge attend a training session as a condition of appointment. You may be required to pass a written and/or hands-on evaluation in order to work. Even though an individual served many years as a Judge, it is necessary to review the laws and procedures that govern elections before every primary election. Each year the General Assembly of Maryland passes many bills that change the way elections are conducted. An informed Election Judge eliminates the possibility of errors in the operation of a precinct on Election Day.
Chief Judges shall be paid $300 for each day served. Election Judges shall be paid $200 for each day served. Alternate Judges are paid the same salary as the person for whom they substitute. All Judges receive $50 as compensation for attending a course of instruction. However, such compensation is not paid if any Election Judge refuses to serve on any Election Day unless excused for good reason by the Election Board. Payment for training is made after the General Election.
Return the Oath of Office
At the time of appointment Election Judges receive the following:
- A letter of appointment indicating what type of Judge the person will be named.
- A letter indicating acceptance of the appointment. This letter will also state the required oath to be taken by an Election Judge. One is not appointed to the position of Judge until the oath is returned to the Election Office.
Should It Be Necessary to Resign
A Judge who finds it necessary to resign must send his or her written request stating the reason for not serving on Election Day to the Board of Elections. The Board at the time of considering such a request will also determine whether or not the individual is entitled to payment for attending the training session should the request be granted.
Judges Working In a Precinct Other Than Where They Vote
Maryland law allows all persons involved in the election process and unable to vote in their home precinct to vote by casting an absentee ballot. Judges who are assigned to work in a precinct other than their own precinct will receive an application for an absentee ballot. This application should be completed immediately on receipt and returned to the Election Office.
Sometimes it is necessary to fill a Judge's vacancy in our appointment roster with a person who doesn't vote in the assigned precinct at the last minute. These Judges will vote an absentee ballot. Normally our staff will send the absentee ballot application to the new appointment at the time of assignment. Should an application not accompany the letter of appointment, the individual should call the Absentee Division at (301) 341-7404 for an absentee ballot application or other information.