Some Simple Suggestions

The county is short
– desperately short – of poll workers. Three hundred more
workers are needed to staff the precincts for the Nov. 8 special
election.
The county is short – desperately short – of poll workers. Three hundred more workers are needed to staff the precincts for the Nov. 8 special election. The county has even decided to allow dispensable county workers to staff the polls on Election Day, drawing the $105 stipend on top of their regular salaries for that day.

It is clear why it is difficult to find workers. The hours are long, 6am to 9pm. The $105 stipend is almost twice minimum wage, but most employed people are not deemed dispensable by their employers, and will not be given the day off to work at the polls.

Our suggestions to the Registrar of Voters can be summed up in two broad strategies: cast a wider net, and make it easier for people to serve.

Historically, retired people provide the bulk of poll workers. Senior centers, senior housing complexes, and members of Sons in Retirement are all venues where a small investment in advertising posters might net a large catch of workers.

Civic and fraternal organizations such as Rotary, Elks, Lions, Masons, Knights of Columbus and the Chamber of Commerce are other potentially rich fishing grounds.

Young people tend to have sporadic or part-time employment, such that a $105 stipend can be mighty attractive, making colleges, including community colleges, good possibilities for advertising.

And although we cannot condone a senior in high school taking the day off to work the polls, we do note that many homeschoolers age 16 and 17 have passed the CHSPE, and thus are, legally speaking, high school graduates. Homeschoolers also frequently have flexible schedules, and can justify a day at the polls as an intensive lesson in civics. Advertise to homeschool support groups.

Finally, the unemployment office, homeless shelters and transitional housing services may provide qualified individuals.

The second broad strategy we suggest the registrar’s office adopt is to make working at the polls less onerous.

More people, including some members of this editorial board, would volunteer to work the polls if they could work shifts, such as 6am to 2pm or 1pm to 8pm, instead of all the live-long day.

More people could work if they could be guaranteed a spot at their local precinct, within walking distance of home and children, instead of being sent to the far side of town, or to another town altogether.

More people could work if … and the ifs vary. One person might be able to work all day, except for two hours when she must take her elderly mother for chemo. Another could work all day, except for picking up her 13- and 11-year-old children from school. The pool of possible workers could be increased enormously if the job were a tad more flexible.

Casting a wider net and making the job less of a marathon are the two strategies we suggest. Allowing double dipping for county employees is not a good strategy; it sends an entirely bad message to the voters.

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