By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — With the Nov. 6 general election fast approaching, county election officials with both the Democratic and Republican parties have found themselves scrambling to fill what they say is a significant numbers of vacant poll worker slots needed to man the polls on election day.
According to Shari Mellin, chairwoman for the Elkhart County Democratic Party, this year’s election has been particularly difficult when it comes to finding poll workers, something she attributes to a gradual changing of the times.
“It’s been more difficult to find them over the past few years, but this election has really been pretty difficult,” Mellin said Wednesday afternoon. “I think it’s just a sign of the times. Retired people are busy with their own lives, and it’s a very long day, and it’s not that great of pay. So it’s difficult to find people who will commit to it. But I think this election has been the hardest I’ve seen so far.”
Shirley Snyder, volunteer poll worker recruiter for the County Republican Party, agreed.
“It’s always difficult, but it seems a little bit more slow this time around,” Snyder said. “It’s a long day, and some of our older workers are to the point where they can’t spend from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. at night anymore. And the younger ones have jobs, and can’t afford to take off work anymore.”
On the Democratic side, Mellin said she is currently in need of poll workers particularly in some of the more outlying areas of the county like Nappanee, Middlebury and New Paris, though she added she can always use more volunteers in the more urban areas like Goshen and Elkhart as well.
“I need probably 25 more workers, and that’s if I have no substitutions,” Mellin said. “And I always need about 20 substitutions on election day. So I’m assuming I need about 40 to 45 more people. And while I currently have the workers I need in Goshen and Elkhart, I don’t have substitutes, so if somebody gets sick before the election, I won’t have anyone to put in their place. So I need some more people for those areas as well.”
On the Republican side, Snyder said she is fairing a bit better than the Democrats, but is still in need of approximately 20 more poll workers to get all her bases covered.
“We’ve got openings in Concord Township and Osolo Township for the Republican side,” Snyder said. “I need 18 more people right now. Most of those are judges, but I also need a couple inspectors and there are a couple clerk openings as well.”
According to Snyder, poll workers are paid for their time. However, poll workers must attend and sign in at a training session and work the full day at the polls on Election Day to receive the training allowance.
Precinct election officers are paid as follows:
• Inspectors: $110 plus $10 food allowance and $10 for attending training
• Democratic Judge: $70 plus $10 food allowance and $10 for attending training
• Republican Judge: $65 plus $10 food allowance and $10 for attending training
• Clerks: $65 plus $10 food allowance and $10 for attending training
“The inspector is essentially in charge of the polling place and setting everything up and taking everything down,” Snyder said. “It’s their responsibility that everything runs smoothly throughout the day.”
As judges, Snyder said that poll workers receive the same training as the inspectors, but play more of an assistant roll.
“He or she is there to help the inspector if they need it, and they also check the IDs and help anyone who is unable to vote on their own for one reason or another,” Snyder said. “Then the clerk is the one who sits down and checks you in and gives you your ballot.”
Poll worker training officially began on Tuesday and will continue through Nov. 1. A breakdown of remaining sessions is below:
Poll Worker Training
Training dates, times and locations for Inspectors and Judges are as follows:
• Oct. 26 (Friday) County Office Building, 117 N. Second St., Room 104, Goshen, at 6 p.m.
• Oct. 30 (Tuesday) County Office Building, 117 N. Second St., Room 104, Goshen, at 6 p.m.
Training dates, times and locations for Clerks are as follows:
• Oct. 30 (Tuesday) Public Service Building, 4230 Elkhart Road, Goshen, at 2 p.m.
• Nov. 1 (Thursday) Public Service Building, 4230 Elkhart Road, Goshen, at 2 p.m.
Poll workers need to attend the proper sessions, as they are job specific.
Anyone interested in working the polls should contact the Republican or Democratic Party at the following numbers:
• Democratic Party: Joe Williams, 875-9440, or Shari Mellin, 262-4213
• Republican Party: Shirley Snyder, 238-5657, or Dale Stickel, 522-7555