Secretary of State seeking bilingual, student election judges

Election judges hand out ballots to voters.
Election judges Alex Grill and Deanna Powell hand out ballots to voters on Nov. 4, 2014 at Van Cleve Recreation Center in the Southeast Como neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Bridget Bennett for MPR News 2014

Minnesota's chief election official said the state needs more election judges, especially those who are bilingual.

Secretary of State Steve Simon said at least 7 percent of the voting population — about 200,000 voters — speaks a language other than English at home.

Bilingual election judges are needed to help these voters register at their polling place and answer their ballot questions, he said.

"When you talk to immigrant communities and new Americans," Simon said, "there is a hesitance sometimes when polling places don't necessarily reflect the community. And particularly when it comes to language barriers."

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Over the next two months, cities and counties will hire about 30,000 election judges for the August primary and the November general election. Trainings will occur over the summer. Judges are typically paid $10 an hour, but that varies across the state.

Simon said there's always a need to replenish the current pool of election judges.

He urged students to get involved by becoming election judge trainees.

"That is a great opportunity for high school kids to get a real first hand glimpse of the democratic process, how elections work, the real detail work of carrying off a smooth and efficient election," Simon said.

Students ages 16 and 17 can apply to be trainees. The positions are paid and the duties are the same as other first-time election judges.

People interested in becoming a judge can apply at the state's MN Votes website.