Jean Asson: Making Sure Your Vote Counts 


Jean Asson voted early this year, but as a chief judge in her Meridian precinct, she'll be at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8 protecting the right of others to vote. This will be Asson's final Election Day as a poll administrator, though. She's stepping back, she says, to spend more time with her husband and volunteering with the Assistance League of Boise. With just a few days left until Election Day, Asson talked about what will undoubtedly be her busiest day of the year.

When did you begin working for Ada County Elections?

A friend of the family asked me to help out in 2006 because there were a number of changes coming to the voting process.

If I remember my recent history correctly, those cke out a victory.

Remember those hanging-chad ballots in Florida? Well, we had those types of ballots here, too. So, Ada County asked me to be trainer, where I would go to poll workers' homes, instructing them on all of the new changes prior to the election. I was a trainer for two years,; and then Ada County asked me to be a District Election Judge for Eagle and Meridian.

Can you explain what a district judge does versus a precinct chief judge?

A chief judge is ultimately responsible for a polling place. Once that polling place opens, none of the poll workers can leave. So the district judge, who is responsible for seven or eight separate precincts, travels from precinct to precinct answering questions or bringing them supplies. In 2008, I put 150 miles on my car on Election Day.

The 2008 election was a very interesting year at some of our local polling places.

One of my precincts saw a lot of people moving into the area that year, so a good many new voters showed up on Election Day. And those lines got pretty long.

Tell me how you manage that.

The chief judge stands behind the very last person in line at 8 p.m. —the time the polls are start to close—and that chief judge ensures everyone in line can still cast a ballot, no matter what time it is. In 2008, the last voters in that precinct didn't cast their ballots until after midnight.

That election triggered some more changes in Ada County.

They decided our precincts were too big, so they sliced up the region into more precincts. As a result, they created a new polling place near Banbury Golf Course and asked me to be the chief judge there.

Can you explain the options for someone who has never voted before?

If they've been here long enough to have an Idaho driver's license, that's really all they need. Otherwise, someone who has been in Idaho for 30 days or more but doesn't have an Idaho license, can bring an out-of-state license or a photo from something like a Costco card. They also need a utility bill to link them to their current address. If they don't have a utility bill, they could also use a checkbook, a car registration or even a magazine with their address on the label.

If they have no photo ID?

No problem. Then, they can sign a personal identification affidavit, and [they] get a ballot.

Has that been a problem at your precinct?

A couple of years ago, a young man walked into our precinct, and said, "I'm not giving you an ID." Our poll worker said, "No problem. You can sign an affidavit." He said, "I'm not signing anything." They called me over, and I stepped out into the lobby with the young man, who repeated, "I'm not showing my ID, and I'm not signing anything." I said, "That's unfortunate. I can't issue a ballot without those." He insisted that we were denying him the right to vote when, in fact, we were explaining the law." I gave him the address and contact info for Ada County Elections Headquarters and urged him to talk to them. I called the office later, and he never called or showed up.

It's fascinating he would go out of his way to have that confrontation but not vote.

I haven't seen him since. We're very careful in following the law. We know the consequences.

Election Day can be pretty long. When you get home that night, do you go straight to bed?

I'm so worked up, I can't really sleep. Plus, my husband is an election nut. We'll be watching the results, for sure.

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