FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County's election workers are closer to a pay increase if the Quorum Court accepts the recommendations of the election commissioners.
The commissioners reviewed the 2023 Election Commission budget Tuesday and unanimously supported boosting the pay for poll workers, staff and for Jennifer Price, the commission's executive director.
Poll workers will receive a $1.45 per hour increase from $11 per hour if the new budget is accepted. Election supervisors will see a $1.45 per hour increase from $12 per hour. Election Commission staff will be eligible for any raise the county provides to other county employees.
The commission also voted to increase Price's salary 15%. Price's salary was $54,850 and will increase to $63,077, according to information from the commission.
"This is simply a recognition of the contributions you have made, not just the past year but throughout your tenure," Renee Oelschlaeger told Price.
Election worker pay has been unchanged since 2020, Price said, when the state minimum wage increased.
Election Commissioner Max Deitchler said the increase is needed.
"Our elections are run by these employees, and elections are one of the most important things county government does," Deitchler said.
The budget will be submitted to the Quorum Court's Finance and Budget Committee to be considered along with other departments as the committee works on the 2023 budget.
Department budgets are due to be submitted to the Finance Committee by Friday, according to Patrick Deakins, justice of the peace for District 5 and chairman of the committee. Deakins said the panel will begin reviewing budgets in July, and he expects the justices of the peace will have a number of special meetings devoted to the budget process in July and August. Those meetings haven't yet been scheduled.
Price told the commissioners the budget for 2023 was put together based on the budget for 2021, which is the last "off year" for elections. There will be no federal or state elections in 2023. Price has budgeted for six elections during the year.
The Election Commission budget for 2021 was about $396,000. The requested budget for 2023 is about $394,000. Personnel costs make up about $261,000 of the total budget for 2023, compared to about $279,000 in 2021.
In other business, commissioners were told the county received a complaint about the May 24 primary election. Price said a voter sent a letter saying a voting location closed before 6 p.m. on the last Friday of the early voting period and they weren't allowed to vote at that time.
Price said the internal time stamps from the poll books in use at that location show some were closed before 6 p.m., but at least one was open until 6:08 p.m. Price said the hours for polling places are set by state law. She said the voter's complaint is being forwarded to the state Board of Election Commissioners for that board's review.
State Board of Election Commissioners
The State Board of Election Commissioners consists of a seven-member staff serving a seven-member board comprised of the secretary of state as chairperson, two members appointed by the governor, and one member each appointed by the chair of the state Democratic party, the chair of the state Republican party, the president pro tempore of the Arkansas Senate and the speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives. The mission of the board is to improve the orderly conduct of elections in the state by promoting fair and orderly election procedures through education, assistance and monitoring.
Source: Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office