For the sixth time since 2010, the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) was called before the New York City Council to hear recommendations for improving on elections logistics with an aim to boosting voting rates. The marathon hearing—over six hours—was much more subdued than past hearings, due in large part to a format change: groups that promote good government testified first, the BOE last. Plenty of suggestions were made to improve all aspects of the election process, including the human element—the election poll workers. Improvements in the selection of workers, the training process, and working methods were discussed as a fundamental way to shorten long lines, which was the chief complaint from the 2012 presidential election.
“Poll workers are the lynch pin of an effective election,” said Alex Camarda, director of public policy at Citizens Union, a nonpartisan good government advocacy group. “Unless we change the manner in which we recruit workers, we will never get 35,000 people to work and reach that level of quality (we want),” Camarda said.
Election poll workers are temporary workers, hired for one-day assignments. They are paid $200 or $300, depending on the job, and are required to work a 16–18 hour shift, often without breaks.
“There is simply no other enterprise that needs to approve tens of thousands of people to do a particular task that would limit itself to people who are available for 16-hour shifts,” said New York state Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.