LANCASTER — The City Council is considering allowing city employees to take paid leave to work the polls during elections, a trend that’s increasingly popular as the current roster ages.
A 2004 state law allows employees to go on paid leave to work elections, and encouraging public employees to serve will help replace the dwindling resource. Some counties are looking to businesses and other organizations for help. Also, a 2006 law allows each precinct to have one poll worker who is a high-school senior at least 17 years old.
The women and men who traditionally staffed polling places are leaving. Some have quit because of recent changes in election laws and technology, such as touch-screen voting machines, that have made voting more complex. The statewide average age for poll workers is 72.
For a 13-hour day — not counting equipment setup and takedown time — poll workers earn $85 to $95, depending on the county.
Deborah Henderly, director of the Fairfield County Board of Elections, asked the Lancaster City Council this month to let city workers have paid leave to be poll workers. She plans to ask the same of the Pickerington City Council, county commissioners and other county officeholders.
Council member Dwight Andrews, a co-sponsor of the legislation authorizing the move, said he hopes the council will approve it later in the month.
“It’s tough to get new people,” said Andrews, whose 84-year-old mother still serves as a poll worker, although she is tiring of it. “I just think that this proposal is a really good idea.”
Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, agrees. It is the trend among Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections, although no one has exact numbers, he said.
“I would say probably over half of the boards of elections are using public employees at some level of government,” said Damschroder, who is president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.
About 2,000 public employees statewide have served as poll workers since the 2004 law took effect, he said. He expects the number to increase.
Montgomery County is using about 150 county workers and hopes to place one county worker per precinct in all 548 precincts by the 2008 election, said Steven Harsman, elections director.