Just four days into the new year, Missoula County set its sights on the 2018 election season and began the process of recruiting 800 judges to ensure the process runs smoothly.

With several high-profile races at stake, along with the balance of power in Congress, both the primary and general election this year are expected see strong voter turnout.

“It takes a community-wide effort to conduct fair, balanced and organized elections,” said Bradley Seaman, the county's election supervisor. “These are people who help protect the integrity of the election system.”

After the Secretary of State last year cast allegations of voter fraud stemming from an irregularity on a single ballot cast in Missoula County in May's congressional race, local election staff spent the November election giving signatures greater scrutiny.

Seaman said judges, polling place managers, booking judges and support staff are also needed to ensure the electoral process goes off without a hitch, and a small army of paid staff and volunteers are need to make that happen.

“Election judges are champions of the election process, playing a crucial role in ensuring the strength and integrity of the voting process, providing friendly customer service and in upholding election law,” Seaman said.

This year, the Elections Office is also partnering with local organizations and businesses to launch a new campaign. Dubbed “Give a Day for Democracy,” the effort looks to encourage others to support those employees who serve Missoula voters.

Individuals are compensated for their time on Election Day and for the time they spend in training.

“There's an ever-increasing demand for election judges in Missoula County,” Seaman said. “The Elections Office is seeking a new generation of election judges to help serve the voters.”

Those interested in participating can call (406) 258-4751 or email electioninfo@missoulacounty.us with their name and contact information. Training is held in February at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, with daytime, evening and weekend classes offered.