Coronavirus Threat Fails to Deter Election Judges in Mankato

Concern over catching COVID-19 in person at the polls has reportedly been the impetus for more Minnesotans to vote by absentee ballot in the forthcoming August 11 primary. The threat of the virus also been cited as a reason there may be a shortage of election judges to be on hand to monitor those who do venture out to vote in person.

But the conventional wisdom has been turned upside down in the Mankato area by the response of more than enough citizens who have answered the call to serve on Primary Election Day,  according to the Mankato paper.

Mankato, needing about 150 poll workers for the Aug. 11 primary election, has 164 signed up and certified. That list will need to grow to about 250 by Nov. 3.

And in North Mankato, City Clerk April Van Genderen has 71 for the election that’s less than three weeks away and 80 for the Nov. 3 general election — enough to do the job even if some are sick or, if the pandemic is worsening, some decide they can’t risk interaction with hundreds of their fellow citizens.

In fact, several volunteers are considered at a higher risk due to age or underlying conditions. But the importance of protecting the health and well-being of the electoral system matters as much to them as protecting themselves.

“Well, I gave it a second thought because I certainly qualify for the at-risk population — and not only because of my age,” [Arthur] Keith said. “I just think it’s too important.”

That’s why he started doing the work in 2012 after retiring as a pastor.

“I just thought of it as public service, patriotic,” he said. “I really believe in the process of voting.”

While many poll watchers tend to be of retirement age, there’s also a pool of younger patriotic participants eager to do their civic duty coming up through the ranks.

Even at age 21, the primary election will be her [Janinya Berglin] third as an election judge in Mankato and she plans to serve on Nov. 3 as well.

“It’s really cool to be involved in the election without being involved in politics,” said Berglin, a certified nursing assistant. “… I think it’s a great way to help the government run smoothly without having to argue with people. You get to meet really cool people, and also they pay you for it.”

Now let’s hope Minnesotans with the option have the gumption to vote in person and make the poll watchers’ commitment even more worthwhile.