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County Is Seeking Poll Workers For Upcoming June Primary, Early Voting, and General Election
By Tina Traster
They get up while the sun is down. Maybe around 4:30 or 5 to be at their posts by 5:45 am. It’s a long and stressful day, clocking up to 15 hours or more. The work can be tedious admittedly, and tiring but they do it because it’s part of the American tradition. A chance to take part in what we consider to be the bedrock of our democracy: Voting. They come for the camaraderie and the company and to participate in something that is fundamentally necessary.
And they get paid – though Rockland County poll workers have said not enough and not in line with neighboring counties including Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange, and Bergen and Passaic Counties in New Jersey.
That is about to change. In April, The Rockland County Board of Elections raised the rates for poll pad, ballot, and voting machine inspectors from $200 to $300 for Primary and Election Day. That brings the rate in line with the above-mentioned counties except Westchester, which pays $350 and Putnam, which gives $325.
The Rockland County rate for a poll site manager has increased from $225 to $325 for Primary and Election Day.
Rates have also inched up for Early Voting Days, where poll workers typically toil about nine hours, from $135 to $150. That rate remains well below the rates in Westchester ($200), and in Putnam and Orange counties ($175). Bergen and Passaic pay roughly $200 for the day.
“It makes me feel better, but we’ve not been paid on par for the last few years,” said Tony Doyle of Pearl River, who has worked the polls for the past three years. “We’ve been calling on Legislators for some time to raise the rates. I’m heartened now but still I don’t think it’s enough.”
Doyle, 72 and retired, says he’s worked the polls for the last eight elections.
“It’s a long, long day,” he said, in an Irish lilt. “But I’ve got pride in the American system. I like politics. I meet good people. I like to see the pulse of a place.”
Poll workers are given one-hour breaks for lunch and for dinner.
Donna Held, the Democratic Election Inspector Coordinator for Rockland County, says there are typically 730 poll workers, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, at 61 sites across more than 300 election districts.
Anyone who has graduated high school is eligible to work the polls, she said.
Held, who says she gets up at 3:30 am on poll days to be at the Board of Elections by 5 am, agrees that poll workers were entitled to better pay.
“We’ve been talking about pay raises for a while,” she said. “It was time to do it. The rate hasn’t been raised for some time. The Commissioners advocated for the raises.”
Poll workers receive an additional $25 for mandatory attendance for a three-hour training session before each election. There is also a $25 compensation fee for those who walk the “Red Bag” and other paperwork to and from the poll site on Election night.
The Board of Elections is looking for poll workers. Applications will be collected through the end of May. For more information, contact Rockland County Board of Elections.