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SB 598 Impact On Election Equipment, Election Workers Pay Discussed At Commissioners Court

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Elections took center stage during the regular Commissioners Court meeting Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. The focus specifically was on the impact of SB 598 on election equipment, pay for individuals delivering and picking up election equipment and how election workers’ hours are turned in to the county treasurer’s office.

Election Workers’ Pay

County Treasurer Danny Davis asked the Commissioners Court to consider requiring election workers who work more days than just Election Day to turn in the standard county time sheet in order to be paid. He contends that doing so would be consistent with county policy for those paid a wage by the county. The documents submitted from the November 2021 Election were confusing and required referring back to an email trail and several documents between the county clerk and treasurer’s offices. Using a standard timesheet would streamline the process and reduce potential for errors in pay.

Hopkins County Treasurer Danny Davis

County Clerk Tracy Smith, whose duties also include election administration, noted the ones used are the ones required by Texas Election Code. She said some election workers put in 12, 16 and potentially 17 days in a row, counting early voting and other required training, etc. In addition to the standard yellow time card, the election judge is required to issue a sheet daily with their ID information. Times are included on that white steno paper. They total it up and attach it to the yellow time sheet.

Davis said he was asked for specific dates that an election worker worked in the last election and was unable with the documents sent to his office to do so. They contain one date at the top and that’s it, he said, making it very confusing, and were illegible.

He and a deputy clerk in Smith’s office have exchanged emails. Afterward, he said he was not any clearer, and proposed one time card to enter the workers’ time on it.

Tammy Calhoun, who is very involved in the election process, told the court that the records are turned in as they are and someone in the auditor’s office has run a report, which is used to split early voting costs among the entities holding elections. They use documentation that the state requires.

Smith also noted that some election workers, those who deliver and pickup election equipment had not received the $20 an hour that was promised to them for the work. The work is more labor intensive so these individual receive more than the standard $12 the election judges receive. She says she’s afraid the county will lose these workers if they don’t get paid the $20.

Tammy Calhoun

Having the workers fill out a different time sheet for the county as that for the state and party chair if a primary, means extra work for the workers who area already putting in long days working the elections. Calhoun said if the county requires the additional document, she’d prefer to allow the judges to keep doing things as they have, but would type up a statement with the required information on it for the treasurer’s office, since he can’t understand or read the other.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker suggested tabling the motion regarding requirement of timesheets for all election workers and that the department head for the two offices involved get together to work out the issue before bringing it back to the court. Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley second the motion, and the court agreed to table the request for timesheets.

Smith then asked the Commissioners Court to formally agreed so that it would be documented in the Dec. 13, 2021, meeting minutes to pay workers who deliver and pickup election equipment $20 per hour for their work. She asked that the rate be retroactive back to the Nov. 2, 2021 Election so that those who worked can be paid the amount still owed at the $20 an hour rate. The amount has been paid to these Election workers. Proof can be provided showing that the individuals performing this election task have been paid $20 per hour back to 2009, the court was told.

County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook said typically, there are two people per day during elections who deliver and pickup equipment, often the same two, paid $20.

The Commissioners agreed to the request that the workers receive $20 for delivery and retrieval of election equipment.

Treasurer Danny Davis and County Clerk Tracy Smith present to the Commissioners Court sheets documenting election workers’ work hours.

SB 598 – Election Equipment

While the push in recent years has been for all electronic voting, the state in Senate Bill 598 is requiring counties go back to paper voting, according to County Judge Robert Newsom. SB 598 requires a paper record of voting for auditing purposes and instances of recounts.

Federal and state funding are designated for conversion of voting systems other than an auditable voting system purchased after September 1, 2014, and before September 1, 2021. Those who make the conversion by the Nov. 8, 2022 election will be eligible for 100 percent of the cost of conversion reimbursed with federal or state funding. Conversions made no later than the Nov. 3, 2026 election can receive up to 50 percent of the cost reimbursed.

Smith estimates Hopkins County could receive as much as $316,000 reimbursed. Intercivic quoted a rate of $314,520. The county will still be responsible for some programming, licensing and training, but the initial conversion cost would be covered by the allocation.

People will vote, receive a printout bulletin that is scanned and logged, and held for auditing in the event of a recount.

The Commissioners Court agreed to proceed with the conversion per a quote from Intercivic so that there is a physical paper record of each ballot cast by the November 2022 election, in order to meet stipulations in SB 598.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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