Clerks report a shortage of election inspectors due to COVID-19

Rochester Hills, Rochester, Oakland Township hiring election inspectors

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 21, 2020

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Holding an election in the middle of a pandemic undoubtedly creates a number of hurdles for local clerks.

Finding enough election inspectors for the Aug. 4 primary — and the Nov. 3 election — is one of them.

Rochester Hills City Clerk Tina Barton said the city is in dire need of election workers.

Rochester Hills typically hires 300-400 election workers for a presidential cycle, with anywhere from eight-10 people assigned to cover each of the city’s 32 precincts.

“We are challenged right now at four at every precinct,” Barton said. “By law, we have to have three, and right now, we’re only able to put about four in every precinct because so many people are dropping out.”

Barton said most of the city’s election inspectors are senior citizens — the most at-risk for serious complications of COVID-19 — so a number of them have decided to remain at home this year.

City officials are hoping others in the community will step up to assist this year to make sure precincts and absentee counting boards are adequately staffed.

Inspectors will be stationed at one of 32 precincts throughout Rochester Hills and will be responsible for opening the precinct on election day, ensuring that voters are registered and are voting in the proper precinct, assigning ballots, and closing the polls.

“The City Clerk’s Office can’t staff 32 precincts on election day; we need election inspectors to make our elections run smoothly. They truly are the backbone of our democracy, and we are very fortunate to have a wonderful group of inspectors,” Barton said in a statement.

Election inspectors must be at least 18 years old and be a qualified and registered elector of the state of Michigan. Inspectors are allowed to serve in a community other than their own.

By serving as an election inspector, Barton said, residents can serve their community and earn extra income. Rochester Hills pays its election inspectors approximately $180-$230 for the day, plus $30 for two training sessions, according to Barton. All workers are provided with masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Election inspector applications are available at the Rochester Hills City Clerk’s Office or on the city’s website: www.rochesterhills.org/elections. To sign up, call the Rochester Hills City Clerk’s Office at (248) 656-4630.

Rochester, which has six precincts, has also seen a decline in election workers, according to City Clerk Lee Ann O’Connor.

“Usually, for an election like this, I would put five or six people in a precinct, but because I expect so few people to actually vote in person, the minimum of three, if not four, is what I’m putting out there,” she said.

Inspectors in the city of Rochester work from 6 a.m. until dismissed by the chairperson or city clerk — usually between 10 p.m. and midnight, depending on the election. The rate of pay is $10 per hour, according to the city’s website. All workers are provided with masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Election inspector applications are available at the Rochester City Clerk’s Office or on the city’s website: www.rochestermi.org/elections. To sign up, call the Rochester City Clerk’s Office at (248) 733-3700.

Oakland Township Deputy Clerk Roxanne Thatcher said she has the “bare minimum” of election workers needed for the primary this year.

“We are having a little bit of a problem because the election workers are older and if they have compromised immune systems, they just don’t want to be in the precincts — they don’t want to chance it. Vacations also come into play,” she said. “We have bare minimum workers, so it would be nice to have a little extra list that we could go to, if someone called in sick, but we don’t really have that right now.”

Usually, for an election, Thatcher said she likes to have six election workers in each of the township’s eight precincts.

“I’d like to get six, but I could only get five per precinct this time,” she said.

Inspectors in Oakland Township typically work from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., depending on the election. Currently, Oakland Township election workers are paid a flat rate of $175 for election day and $25 for attendance at the training meeting. Electronic pollbook inspectors earn $195 for the day, and precinct chairpersons earn $225 for the day. All election workers also receive a $10 food allowance and are provided with masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

To sign up, call the Oakland Township at (248) 651-4440 or visit www.oaklandtownship.org.

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