PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria County Election Commission is offering a 21 percent raise in an effort to recruit new election judges.

Elizabeth Gannon, executive director of Peoria County Election Commission, said election judges will be paid $200 for the upcoming election cycle, up from $165 last cycle. The money comes from Illinois State Board of Elections reimbursements and taxpayer budget.

“Election judges are really the frontlines of democracy. They are the ones that are verifying a voter is eligible to vote, assisting a voter if necessary, and ensuring the tallies are correct at the end of the night. They are really the ones ensuring election integrity is in play,” said Gannon.

Judges are required to attend a two-hour in-person training session, an online training session and serve at a polling location on Election Day. Gannon said they are working with ISBE to include de-escalation training in light of the increase in harassment and bullying of election workers.

Gannon said election judges get an up close look at democracy in action.

“It’s a great way to give back to your community. It’s also a great way to understand the election process. There are a lot of questions out there right now, a lot of misinformation, disinformation. If you want to know the processes and how everything works in your county, sign up to be an election judge,” she said.

The average age of an election judge is over 70 years. About 200 judges decided not to return after the pandemic, Gannon said.

“They were most susceptible to the pandemic…It’s time for the younger generation to pick up that torch and do their civic duty so elections can run smoothly,” she said.

To be an election judge, candidates must be a U.S. citizen, be a registered voter, meet physical and mental requirements, fluent in English, not a candidate running for office and not a sex offender.

The first training session is in January. The primary election is on March 19, 2024.