Politics often divide us, but for this central Minnesota election judge, it's created lasting friendships
As election judges become harder to find, it's nice to know there are some who wouldn't dare miss the big day.
VERNDALE — Politics have always been an unabashed interest to Rosalie Miller of Verndale, Minn.
“In high school I was a teenage Republican and I just always had an interest in what was going on. I loved current events,” she said from her home just days prior to the 2022 election.
She’s gone on from her early years of staying attuned to politics to actively participating in local elections in Wadena County for the last 30 years. She served as a township clerk for about 13 years and an election coordinator for the county for 15 years. She’s now gone back as a supervisor at Aldrich Township, where she continues to serve as an election judge each election cycle.
Naturally, when the question was posed about what she can do to use her passion, she heard about the need for election judges and got signed up. That was just the beginning. When the position of election coordinator came up, she jumped at the opportunity.
“That sounds like my dream job,” she said.
She said others warned her that the job was a headache and stressful. Some wondered why she would want to get involved.
“I said ‘I was born to do this job,’” Miller remembers saying. Each day she worked through the steps necessary to run an efficient, accurate, fair and convenient election. She embraced working with all the different people involved in the process. “I loved going to work everyday, I loved the people, training the judges, working with the election on election night.”
The job allowed her to meet so many people also fascinated by politics. That’s the thing about the election season, for one day of the year, huge numbers of people from your area show up at the same place. People that maybe you haven’t seen since – last election.
In her drive to make elections work well, she answered the call from the Minnesota Secretary of State and wrote a letter about the need to hear from rural areas when making election decisions, not just from those in the Twin Cities. The letter earned her a spot on a task force to make monthly trips to the Twin Cities for one year and give her thoughts on running an election in Minnesota. She formed some great relationships in that group, much like her other roles in politics.
Miller retired from the elections coordinator role when she reached retirement age as she wanted to have more time to devote to her grandchildren. The far more part-time role of township supervisor and election judge allows her more freedoms while still staying engaged in the process of our democracy.
On election day, Miller joined election judge staff members ReNaye Seaton, Lois Nanik and Annette Adamietz at the Aldrich Township Town Hall, just north of Verndale. The crew was ready for the big day, with Miller even bedecked in her red, white and blue. "I Voted" stickers covered an end table, Old Glory hung on the wall and a table cloth celebrated our countries flag, too. The dedicated staff were ready to continue a tradition of fair elections in Wadena County.
Tips from an election judge
Miller believes people should research the candidates prior to showing up at the polls on election day and she wants to see eligible and able voters to show up that day. She’s not a big believer in mail-in voting, sharing that the person voting outside of the polling place could be influenced to vote a certain way. She believes the electronic ballot systems in Wadena County are very accurate and have been proven to be year-after-year. She’s involved in the process of testing the equipment each year and counting ballots by hand when it’s needed. Those practices have shown that the machines accurately count as well if not better than two humans trying to decipher some scratches on paper.
She noted the big recount for the Al Franken and Norm Coleman race in 2008, a legal battle that lasted eight months. They had to recount all ballots by hand.
“That proved that the machines worked well,” Miller said.
She encourages all eligible voters to get out and vote.
“That really gets me,” Miller said of those who decide not to take advantage of their right to vote. “We have people in foreign countries that give their life to go vote for the freedoms that we have and we can’t even get up on election day and go vote – I just don’t understand it.”
In a primary, you have to pick a party and stick with it. But at the general election, you can vote for whoever you want. You don’t even have to pick anyone for some of the races. Each year ballots come back spoiled when people pick two many candidates or if they did not quite fill in the blank as the ballot directs.
Each year election judges get a question from a voter to help them understand a ballot question or perhaps give some advice on a candidate. This is not something an election judge can help voters with. They cannot influence your decision on a vote. That’s why Miller asks people to study the issues and candidates prior to arrival.
There’s always a need for election judges like Miller. One primary issue is that there are far more Republicans in this area than there are Democrats, based on voting results. It's here that Donald Trump had 72% of the votes in the 2020 election.
According to the election judge guide, at least two judges must represent different major political parties. No more than one-half of the judges can be from the same major political party. Partisan affiliation does not apply to student trainee judges, or to judges in school district or township elections not held in conjunction with a statewide election. If an election judge does not affiliate with a major political party, they must provide a statement confirming their “un-affiliation” status to their appointing authority.
So in this area, a Republican and Democrat are to work together at the election and take part in ballot counting when needed. Sometimes it takes talking people into taking the job.
“Being an election judge is like jury duty, a business can not tell you can’t be an election judge,” Miller said.
Election judges are either paid by the precinct or you can volunteer your time. Miller said sometimes a precinct needs to offer pretty good pay to get people interested in helping. Back in 2016, pay ranged from $7 to about $15 an hour.
For Miller, working in politics has never been about the money, although she believes that the rising inflation in the country will certainly have an impact on this year’s election.