Election workers get a pay raise

Written on 02/12/2024
Patrick Munsey

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Howard County has trouble getting enough people to work the polls on Election Day. Howard County Clerk Debbie Stewart hopes to remedy the problem in time for the primary election in May.

Last week, she approached the Howard County Board of Commissioners, asking them to approve a pay increase for those willing to work on Election Day, as well as to work the polls in early voting.

Under the new ordinance, election workers will earn $155 on Election Day, or $12.92 per hour based on a 12-hour shift. Those working early voting locations will make $100 per day, or $8.33 an hour based on a 12-hour shift.

Election judges and inspectors will make slightly more, with judges earning $200 on Election Day ($16.67 per hour) and $125 on early voting days ($10.42 per hour). Inspectors will earn $225 ($18.75 per hour) and $140 ($11.67 per hour) on the respective days.

Despite the fact that the compensation, particularly for early voting positions, is well below the average wage rate of $24.45 per hour in Howard County, or even the average pay rate of a food service worker ($13.17 per hour), Stewart believes the increase will attract more workers.

"The election board and I have been in discussion on trying to increase the workers’ wages for the election," said Stewart. "So, we came up with a pay schedule. The council has already approved the funding in my last budget. Now we're coming to the commissioners and asking for them to increase the election worker pay through an ordinance.

"We feel like this will draw in some of the younger people, because our election workers are older."

Stewart explained that students as young as 16 can work on Election Day, and anyone ages 18 and up can work early voting as well. She told the commissioners she previously sent letters to the local schools in attempt to encourage students to participate but got only one response.

Part of the reluctance, Stewart believes, involves the job itself. It's confining and could be considered boring at times.

"They have to sit there for 12 hours, you know," said Stewart. "They're not allowed to leave. So, they have to sit on Election Day for 12 hours and early voting for 10 hours. And once they're in that vote center, they're not allowed to leave."

In addition to the proposed pay increase, Stewart explained that each election worker receives an $11 reimbursement on any meal expenses they incur on Election Day. However, Stewart hopes to help that situation by hiring a caterer to provide meals to the workers during the day.

The commissioners approved the ordinance unanimously, making the raises effective Feb. 5.