Jim Pappas clearly remembers the 1992 general election, when Bill Clinton unseated President George H.W. Bush.
Jim was a Democrat election judge in Stookey 3 Precinct, which voted at Signal Hill Lutheran Church in Belleville.
"We had close to 98 percent turnout in that precinct," said Jim, 69, of rural Belleville. "It was just an election that drew an awful lot of voters. We had lines waiting all day. We haven't had anything like it since."
Another problem was that many people hadn't voted since St. Clair County switched to a punch-card system. They mistakenly folded ballots, causing machines to jam.
It was Jim's first general election as a judge, but the chaos didn't scare him off. He continues to work in the precinct, now voting at Signal Hill School.
Jim takes off from his job as a real-estate broker every Election Day. He also hauls equipment to nursing homes for early voting.
"It's really remarkable how thankful people are to be able to continue to vote," he said. "A lot of them were not able to vote because of their physical limitations, and some of them don't have family and friends to help."
Jim is one of 1,025 election judges in the county. They earn $150 for a workday that begins at 5 a.m. and ends at 8 or 9 p.m. (plus $50 for training).
Richard Fann's neighbor recruited him 20 years ago to become a Republican election judge for Belleville 4 Precinct, which votes at Nichols Community Center.
"I had served some time in the military, so I thought, 'OK, this is something else civic I can do to help the community and be part of the Democratic process,'" he said. "I'm interested in politics, and I think our fair and free elections are the greatest in the world."
Richard, 50, of Shiloh, a radio frequency engineer, enjoys socializing with people who show up at Nichols year after year.
His favorite part of the day is when children from the center's preschool visit the polls.
"They're very inquisitive," Richard said. "They'll ask questions like, 'Why do people vote?' Or, 'Do my mom and dad vote here?' They see people with pens (to mark optical-scan ballots), and they'll ask if they're coloring. And sometimes they'll sing a song or do a dance for us."
Richard serves with Marie Oelrich, 80, of Belleville, a Democrat election judge since 1980. She's known some of the precinct's voters since they were kids, coming to the polls with their parents.
Marie is a homemaker who reared six children and helped her husband, the late Charles "Chuck" Oelrich, manage apartments. He was a precinct committeeman when she became an election judge.
"They still had the big machines," Marie said. "They were monstrous. (Each machine) had a light in it and a curtain that you pulled. I'm not sure how they transported them. I don't know if they collapsed or fit into each other or what."
Marie remembers only one mishap, when a substitute judge was working. The number of voters and ballots didn't match up at the end of the day, so all five judges had to trudge over to the courthouse for verification.
Off-year elections are less hectic for judges than general elections. Sometimes, they can be downright boring.
Jan Petersen remembers one election that drew only 55 voters from Engleman 1 Precinct to the polling place in Mascoutah Township's maintenance shed.
"I took a book with me," she said. "We read, and we talked, and we cleaned (the bathroom). One of the ladies knits, and she knitted all day. It was a very long day, but it was a short shutdown."
Jan, 63, of Mascoutah, has been a Democrat election judge "since Jimmy Carter was president." In those days, Engleman 1 voting took place in a private garage.
Jan enjoys the social interaction and community spirit on Election Day.
"We have pollwatchers who are really nice, and they bring us doughnuts," she said. "All kinds of people bring us food, like chips and candy, cheese and crackers. They talk to us and tell us how things are going. We all know each other out here."
The atmosphere is similarly laid back in Millstadt 1 Precinct, where former Smithton Township Assessor Ruth Touchette has been a Democrat election judge since at least 1990.
Judges bring snacks to share with each other, spreading them out on a counter between the kitchen and main room at Millstadt Community Center.
"You'd be surprised how many (voters) will think that the food is for them, and they will eat off it," said Ruth, 72, of Smithton. "We just kind of shake our heads. We don't say anything."