CHICAGO (CBS) — You do the work, you expect to get paid. Pretty simple, right? The Morning Insiders heard from a Cook County election judge still waiting for her check for a 15-hour day for the March primary.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas has her simple plea to the county: show me the money.
“I do it for the money, but also believe in democracy,” said Susan Rohde, who has fulfilled her civic duty for more than a decade as an election judge. “My biggest responsibility is transmitting the data.”
This year, many election judges bailed at the last minute as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit Illinois hard.
“A little scary, things started shutting down for COVID. We were given no gloves, no masks. A long stressful day,” Rohde said.
Even so, she stuck it out at her polling place from 6 a.m. until past 10 p.m. She waited for a check, but it never arrived.
“It’s annoying,” she said.
Rohde did the work on March 17. She was told the check went out April 24, but it’s apparently lost.
She learned she’d have to wait 30 days after that until the county could begin that process to replace the checks.
The county told her she would need to get an affidavit notarized, in person, during the pandemic, and then mail that in. Yes, the same mail that apparently lost her check.
“I guess it’s in their mailroom. I don’t know,” she said.
Rohde jumped through all the hoops. It’s been three months. She’s still waiting for her money, with no end in sight.
She has tried many times to reach Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbough about her check.
“Karen and all her staff are getting paid over the past three months. Why shouldn’t I get the same respect? And I’m not alone,” Rohde said.
Rohde knows that from an email the county sent her:
“It has been a widespread problem this election, because of the challenges the U.S. Post Office has faced, as well as shelter-in-place orders. More than 150 people have reported not receiving their check. This never happens.”
“Come on, there’s got to be a way to solve this,” Rohde said.
Rohde has that solution. Just send her a new check to replace to the original one, without all the red tape.
“If you’re gonna trust me with hundreds of votes, you won’t trust me with $300?” she said.
We had one last question for Rohde. Will she work the general election in November?
“I don’t know if they’ll want me if this airs on TV,” she said with a laugh.
Cook County Clerk’s office spokesman James Scalzitti said election worker payroll “was processed in a manner and timeframe consistent with the checks and balances necessary to make sure all workers who worked on election day were compensated. “
There were a record number of election workers this year who were scheduled to work on Election Day and did not end up reporting, Scalzitti wrote in a statement. Several precincts had people come in to help at the last moment amid reports of a shortage of workers, he said.
“This required a diligent manual review of the paper documents that were submitted by Election Judges on Election Day to verify all workers would be compensated,” Scalzitti wrote. Election worker payroll was submitted to comptroller and checks mailed to workers in a timely manner.”
But the county Clerk’s office began to receive calls from people who had worked on Election Day reporting they had not been paid. There was also business mail that was sent to standard office contacts and was returned to the Clerk’s office with no explanation, Scalzitti wrote.
“This prompted calls from the Clerk’s office to representatives of the USPS. On May 21, 2020 our USPS Postal Representative Annie Bradley stated that there are extreme delays (up to 4-8 weeks) due to the limited staffing at the processing plants and the stations.
160 Election Workers have filled out affidavits to receive a new check,” Scalzitti wrote.
Currently, Scalzitti said, there is no mechanism in place within Cook County government for electronic processing for election worker payroll.
Scalzitti added the following:
“There is a process and protocols the Clerk’s office has to follow when issuing paychecks, including those to our Election Judges.
“The County is designed to ensure checks and balances occur, especially as it relates to money. To that end, the County has established protocols to ensure that a person is not compensated twice unintentionally. We are subject to the rules of the County and do not have the authority to deviate from the procedures they have created to protect the integrity of the payroll process.
“We realize it can be frustrating for those who haven’t gotten their checks. These public servants are our frontline troops on Election Day, entrusted to make sure then polling places are operating and people are able to vote.
“Before the next election, we will be meeting with many Election Judges to get their feedback and help identify areas of opportunity for improvement. This is part of the Clerk’s Office’s continuing effort to identify areas of opportunity for improvement and we are committed to improving efficiencies in every area.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. Postal Service representative insisted the Post Office has not heard of delays like the ones election workers and the Clerk’s office were describing, and said, “Chicago operations are running as normal.”