Another feather in its cap

Published 7:27 pm Friday, September 21, 2012

In keeping with its philosophy of making the voting and election processes as convenient as possible, the Beaufort County Board of Elections has taken yet another action.
Expecting a record voter turnout on Election Day (Nov. 6), the board wants to make sure it has as many precinct workers as possible at each of the county’s 21 precincts. In addition to the usual chief judge, two judges and two precinct assistants, the board plans on adding an election technician at each precinct to operate and keep secure each precinct’s electronic poll book, which is a laptop computer with precinct-specific voter information.
Most voters likely don’t know that the political parties in the county are responsible for recommending people to work as precinct officials, with the Board of Elections having final say over who gets appointed. Usually, the board follows the parties’ recommendations.
In an interview Friday, Elections Director Kellie Harris Hopkins said finding precinct workers is not an easy task.
The problem the local political parties are having is they have few people to recruit precinct officials.
“What they’re running into is we’re looking at 21 precincts with at least five (precinct officials) in it. This time, we’re looking at six,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking at a minimum of 126 people. When you have two people that are working for the parties and they have to find a third or two-thirds of these folks to work, they’re having a hard time coming up with people who are able to do it. It’s an awful long day, from 6 o’clock in the morning until we’re done, which is probably going to be 9 (p.m.) or 10 (p.m.) this year. It’s a struggle a lot of times to fill those positions with people they want in those positions.”
Hopkins said people who file applications to serve as precinct officials provide the parties a pool from which to draw potential precinct officials.
“We’re trying to help them build a talent pool to give them names of people who are willing to work and want to work and we’re not two days before the election scrambling to find precinct officials,” she said.
Hopkins said the chairmen of the county’s Republican Party and Democratic Party told her they appreciate the board’s help in recruiting precinct workers. Of that, we are sure.
Beaufort County voters who are not precinct workers should consider doing just that, even if for no other reason than precinct workers get paid. A chief judge makes $225 an election. Assistant judges get paid $175 an election, with precinct assistants making $150 an election. An election technician will be paid $225 an election. Election technicians undergo training regarding the electronic poll books. The other precinct officials undergo two to three hours of training a week before an election, with several training sessions available.
The Board of Elections should stick another feather in its cap — it’s earned it.