• 68°

Proper pay, training key for poll workers

The work may not be strenuous, but the hours are long and current pay amounts to less than minimum wage.

     Elections could not be held without poll workers, the ones who staff precincts to check in voters and provide whatever voting-related assistance is necessary. Poll workers are at their precincts from before 7 a.m. until after 7 p.m. on Election Day.

     At $80 for the 12-hour day, a poll worker’s pay comes out about $6.66 an hour, well below the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Poll managers, those who pick up election materials the day before the election, deliver them to the precincts, and return them to the courthouse after polls close, are paid an extra $20 for that service.

     Supervisors last week heard a request from local Democratic and Republican party officials and election commissioners for a $15 a day increase each for poll workers and managers. The current pay rate went into effect in 2008.

     Supervisors took the pay raise issue under advisement, but board president Nolan Earl Williamson sounded optimistic it would be approved.

     Lining up poll workers is presenting a challenge and election officials believe better pay may encourage more people willing to serve.

     With a required minimum of three poll workers per precinct, at least 96 people are needed to staff Lincoln County’s 32 precincts. That number is doubled for separate primaries run by the Democratic and Republican parties.

     Larger precincts like Enterprise, Ole Brook, Lipsey and Loyd Star need even more workers to handle an expected larger voter turnout.

     Anything that could lead to better, more efficient elections is a welcome move. Pay raises for poll workers fall into that category.

     With the increased pay, however, should come expectations for the realization of better and more efficient elections, something Lincoln County has struggled with in recent years. That comes down to training.

     Poll workers, both old and new, need to embrace the training provided and become fully familiar with voting machines and all the ins and outs of staffing a precinct.

     Poll workers represent a vital cog in the election process. They deserve proper compensation for making that process run as smoothly as possible.