By Chad Koenen
For the past quarter of a century the City of Henning voters were typically greeted by the laugh and voice of Richard Johnson on election day. It was a position he took seriously, which also provided him a chance to see each election from a different angle.
“There was an opening and I wanted to see what it was like. I always want to see the other side, so I volunteered for it,” said the longtime Henning resident. “I didn’t start out as head election judge either. I really enjoyed the people back then too, they volunteered.”
Due to health reasons, Johnson officially resigned as head election judge for the City of Henning during last week’s city council meeting. He was an election judge for a total of 25 years, the past 15 of which he served in the capacity of head election judge.
In his resignation letter, Johnson asked the general public to step up and volunteer to be election judges in the future. He said judges should volunteer their service and not be hand-picked to ensure people of all different backgrounds are represented in the election process.
Johnson also said it is important for city of Henning residents to fill the need of election judges in future years.
“It’s not a hard job. It is important and it is a good experience for people. Here is a chance for the town of Henning, the people, to come forward and work on the other side,” said Johnson. “It’s not a difficult job, the only difficult part is at the end and counting the ballots and going through all of the steps the county requires.”
In order to be trained as an election judge a person needs to attend two meetings during an election year. On the day of the election they could work one shift, which can last approximately 5-6 hours, and be paid an hourly wage for their time. The judges also tend to make the day fun and share treats, meals and a few good laughs during the down time.
“Be a part of the system and the other thing is to, truthfully, find out what elections are all about. You get to meet people you meet the people of Henning,” he said. “You shouldn’t be afraid because I’m a Democrat or a Republican. You are there to work together.”
Even though this past year’s election shined the light on the work of election judges in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, Johnson said such scrutiny doesn’t usually take place on a local level.
Just once in his 25 years as an election judge was there someone from both parties in the City of Henning to watch the ballots get cast. He didn’t remember exactly why that took place, but even in that situation people were cordial and were just there to do their job.
In order to be a judge, Johnson said a person just needs to stop by city hall and ask to be put on a list for potential election judges. Even if there isn’t a need for additional election judges today, the need will be there in the future as there is a vast shortage of election judges across the country.