Thursday, July 17th, 2014
By William Kincaid
Board wants county workers for polls
Employees would be paid twice if proposal OK'd
  CELINA - Mercer County Board of Elections officials want county employees to have the option to serve as poll workers without using vacation or compensatory time when away from their regular jobs.
Under such a policy, county employees would be paid two ways - their normal work pay in addition to wages as independent contractors for the board of elections.
The county employs a pool of "highly qualified, technically savvy" workers who could be helpful in running effective elections, board director Deb Sneddon and deputy director Laura Bruns wrote in a recent letter to county commissioners.
"Some counties have it in effect that county employees do not have to take a leave day. So, they're getting paid from (the board of elections) to work, and they're also getting paid from their regular job," Bruns told board of election members on Tuesday.
She did not know how many counties have such a policy in place. Only a handful of county employees currently work as poll workers on election days, Bruns said.
According to Mercer County policy, employees who serve as a precinct election official and receive poll worker pay may also receive regular employment compensation via vacation or compensatory time.
Commissioners took no action on the board's request to establish a resolution in support of state legislation passed in 2004 that permits state and county employees to serve at the polls on Election Day without losing regular pay.
"The board reviewed the county's current policy and found it satisfactory," county administrative clerk Kim Everman wrote on behalf of commissioners.
Elections board member Phil Long questioned the policy.
"So, basically our commissioners are saying, 'you can do it, but you have to take a leave?' " he asked.
"They denied our request," Sneddon replied.
Board members then discussed asking elected county officials to fulfill their request.
"I know we directed that letter to the commissioners for county employees, but I wonder about county auditor employees, county treasurer employees," board member Toni Slusser asked. "Did you get the same response?"
Bruns said the office hadn't sent letters to elected county officials.
Sneddon noted all county employees receive a policy book containing the political activity clause.
"Wouldn't that cover the auditor's office?" board member Del Kramer asked.
"No, each elected official has their own budget .... they can make their own rules within their own office," Slusser said.
The policy book probably applies to appointed county positions, such as the health department, Slusser explained.
Board members then directed Sneddon and Bruns to contact elected officials about allowing their workers to serve as paid poll workers on election days without sacrificing a vacation day or compensatory time.
If permitted, county employees would receive their regular compensation and at least $132 ($25 for training and a minimum of $107 for poll worker pay for the day) for Election Day work, according to Sneddon.
Bruns and Sneddon said the agency will prepare in the coming months for a large turnout of voters for the gubernatorial general election in November, including the recruitment of more than 160 qualified, dedicated electors to work the polls.
Mercer County Treasurer Dave Kaiser on Wednesday told the newspaper it would be premature to comment on whether he would support the board of elections' request for employees under his authority. However, he did note that his three full-time staffers are very busy particularly in the spring primary election season, and he doesn't know how his department would operate in their absence.
Mercer County Auditor Randy Grapner, who has a staff of 12 full-time employees, made similar comments. He said his department would prefer to have an opinion from the prosecuting attorney's office to be implemented as statute.
Like Kaiser, Grapner questioned how his department would run efficiently if staff were out of the office serving as poll workers.
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