Sex Offender Election Judges

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

Almost anyone can be an election judge in Illinois, especially since most counties are like Winnebago County. The election boards don't conduct background checks.

"It's not so technical or anything we just make sure they're registered and they they're registered and voted in some primaries," says Winnebago County Clerk Margie Mullins.

But what is the county's policy for judges who are registered sex offenders?

"We would check and make sure they are not anywhere near where they shouldn't be, near children. Do we have one?" Mullins asks.

I showed Mullins a photo of one of the 420 Winnebago County Election Judges.

"I know this man," she says. Did you know he's a sex offender, I ask. She responds no.

That's a secret Donald Torgerson hoped no one would find out. He's been an election judge for nearly a decade. He's also been a registered sex offender since 1995.

"I don't think anybody knows about it," he says.

They do now. But lack of knowledge does not mean election administrators can put voters at risk. Even though Torgerson says he's never been a judge at a school,which is illegal, current policy could soon change.

"It seems to be more conscious of people with sex offenders around and it will probably be something we will have to start checking for."

Mullins says she'll be contacting State's Attorney Paul Logli for advice on how to handle sex offender election judges, but there will be no changes before Tuesday's election. And she adds background checks are likely to be a part of preparations for the 2008 primary elections.

Also, Rockford has three sex offenders working as election judges. Like Winnebago County the Board of Election Commissioners also do not do criminal background checks. They told me they had no idea sex offenders were on their team of 5-hundred polling judges.


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