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Strange bedfellows: Differences of opinion unimportant for married election judges

Election judges Catherine Cwiklinski, a Republican, and her husband, John Cwiklinksi, a Democrat, help voters Thursday at the Legislative Center in Sycamore.
Election judges Catherine Cwiklinski, a Republican, and her husband, John Cwiklinksi, a Democrat, help voters Thursday at the Legislative Center in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – For election judges John and Catherine Cwiklinski, the secret to marital longevity is not discussing politics.

Catherine, a Republican, and John, a Democrat, have been election judges in DeKalb County since 2004, when they moved to Sycamore. They've been married 58 years.

As election judges during early voting, the two started the season Sept. 27 at the county's legislative building. They work every type of election – as John said, "there's always something local voters have to decide."

Because they're retired, being election judges gives them something to do to stay busy.

"Not only that, but they need people to do this kind of work," John said.

DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder John Acardo said election judges are appointed by the local political parties. Many tend to be involved as election judges for years, he said, and they often say they see their involvement as a way of giving back to the community.

John and Catherine are able to work side-by-side at polling places because they are of opposing political parties. Because the county predominantly votes Republican, Acardo said it is required to have two Republican election judges and one Democratic judge at every early voting polling place.

"This allows us to work together, and it works out fine," John said. "She just does what she wants to do, and I do what I want to do."

On Election Day, the way a specific precinct has voted in the past determines the number of election judges from each party at that polling place, Acardo said.

John and Catherine also work Election Day at their precinct polling place at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. It's a long day for election judges, who arrive at 5:15 a.m. and work until 7 p.m.

Election Day tends to be busy, Catherine said, "but we're hoping to have this early turnout relieve the crowding."

On Thursday, they processed a voter every two to three minutes, John said. Acardo has said that pre-Election Day voting has been strong this year, and he expects 22 to 25 percent of those expected to vote will have done so before Tuesday.

Presidential elections are exciting and usually tend to draw a solid number of voters, Catherine said.

"The presidency, that election means a lot to people," she said.

Catherine added that she's always been interested in politics, and previously was a village trustee in Lombard.

"It's a freedom that we should be thankful we have," she said of the country's political system.

In their years as election judges, the two have seen voting become more sophisticated as technology advances.

"I think it gets better each time," Catherine said.

John called the job of election judge kind of intriguing, as they meet all types of people who want to cast a ballot. Catherine said an election judge has to be interested in the system of voting and enjoy interacting with people.

The two said their difference in political opinion has never caused any arguments at home. But that's because they don't really talk politics, unless they're on the same page on a particular candidate or issue, Catherine said.

"We've found that's the best way," she said. "... That's why we're together."

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