Election workers may see a permanent pay raise from the present $200 a day to $300 a day if Assembly Bill A208 should become state law. Further, the bill seeks to appropriate $7M to the Department of State for the purpose of reimbursing the respective counties for the cost of the bill’s implementation.
Counties receive $125 from the state towards election workers’ $200 payment, making up the balance of $75. This would not change under the new law: counties would continue to pay $75, but the state would reimburse them $225. For election workers covering a school election “held at a time other than the general election,” their hourly rate would rise from $14.29 to $19.64.
The bill, with primary sponsors Assemblymen Kevin Rooney and Robert Karabinchak, was brought before the Assembly State and Local Government Committee’s virtual meeting on Monday. The sponsors themselves were not present at the meeting.
Present on the call were Aaron Greene, Associate Counsel for the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, and Sandra Mattson representing the New Jersey League of Women Voters, both of whom submitted testimony in favor of the legislation.
“We need poll workers for our elections in order for our democracy to function,” Greene said. “With municipal and congressional elections ahead of us this year, it is necessary for the state to address the ongoing problem of poll worker shortages. This can be accomplished by ensuring that poll workers are better compensated for the essential roles they play in the functioning of our elections. In light of the difficulty in recruiting poll workers in previous elections, we support this increase of poll worker pay for all future elections.”
Greene pointed out that Governor Murphy had increased poll worker pay “with overwhelming bipartisan support” temporarily a response to a major shortage of poll workers. “In the eight days following the signing of the executive order 13,500 people signed up to serve as poll workers for the November general election. The pay increase resolved the 10,000 poll worker shortage.”
Citing a continued labor shortage in general, and referring to private businesses which have, in some cases, raised their own minimum wages above the state minimum of $13 an hour, Greene made his case for the poll worker pay raise to be a permanent one. “Given that there are over 10 million vacant jobs in the US and businesses are increasing wages to attract workers, our government must do the same for poll worker recruitment. The legislature has recognized the importance of this issue, and to its credit has temporarily increased pay for poor workers in the past. It is now up to the legislature to pass A208 and give poll workers a permanent pay increase.”
“We all know the importance of poll workers in our democratic system, not only involving the nuts and bolts on Election Day, but also for voters’ confidence in the system,” Mattson said. “Increasing the pay for a 15-hour day to $300 is tax dollars well spent and will hopefully help with poll worker recruitment.” She added that she herself worked on Election Day in November, the first time she had done so in twenty years. “Although I didn’t sign up because of the increase in pay, it’s a long 15 hours and I earned every penny of it.”
When put forward for a vote, Chairman Anthony Verrelli, Assemblymembers Lisa Swain, Sadaf Jaffer, Erik Simonsen, and Edward Thomson gave the go-ahead and A208 passed with 5 “yes” votes and 0 “no” votes or abstentions.