State mandates poll workers to get raise

Published 10:53 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

You might have wanted to tell us about this.

That was the sentiment Lawrence County Commissioners had Thursday when they discussed pay raises the Lawrence County Board of Elections gave poll workers earlier this week.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board raised the pay for workers from $85 to $95 in keeping with the federal and state wage increases.

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Presiding judges will get additional money since they have additional responsibilities, such as collecting supplies before polls open and bringing ballots to the courthouse at the end of the day. The state now requires each precinct’s ballots to be brought to the courthouse by two poll workers, one Democrat and one Republican. The shotgun rider will get $8 for that service. All totaled the pay revisions for poll workers will cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

Lawrence County Commissioners said they had heard about the pay hikes but had not gotten anything official from the elections board. Former board of elections deputy director Ella Lawless attended both meetings and said while she understands the sentiment, the elections board’s timing is off.

“I know there are money problems. I want you to be aware they’re keeping you out of the loop. I’m not saying they don’t deserve raises,” Lawless said. “I’m not saying that at all.”

According to Ohio Revised Code 3501.28E1a, boards of election are supposed to notify county commissions by October of any pay raises they intend to give poll workers the following year— meaning this year’s pay hikes were not done in accordance with state law.

“That’s so we can put it in the budget,” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said.

Stephens said he would like to see fewer precincts and a revision of precinct boundaries since some precincts only handle a couple hundred voters during an election and others accommodate more than a thousand. Lawless agreed.

“We had one precinct in Washington Township one year that had three voters— and we had four poll workers,” she said.

The board of elections Tuesday night also approved an increase in overtime hours for elections office staffers. Each employee may tally up to four hours of overtime per day per pay period. The limit had been two hours. Weekend work may be performed as needed.

In other matters, the commission met Thursday afternoon with members of the Ohio State Auditor’s Office to discuss the state agency’s performance audit of the county courthouse finances and practices. The meeting was closed to the public. County officials now have an opportunity to make comments before the audit is released to the public.