Philadelphia poll workers are about to get a raise

A sign says

A polling place in Philadelphia. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Poll workers in Philadelphia are expected to receive a raise this year.

City Commissioner Omar Sabir said the pay hike should be an incentive to help fill hundreds of Election Day jobs that have required long hours with poor compensation in the past.

“Over recent years we have seen a decline in individuals willing to take on this critical task,” Sabir said. “Several factors, aging of the population, increasing dependence on technology, long Election Day hours, and concerns about covid exposure have contributed to decreased poll worker volunteerism.”

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Sabir said the pay hike could also help diversify the group of people who spend their day overseeing elections.

“Poll workers are paid at an hourly rate of $8.25 for a vigorous 14-hour day,” he said. “Many of these individuals are seniors or on a fixed income. Raising poll worker compensation, or removing potential hardship for their participation will facilitate greater volunteerism and civic participation by Philadelphia’s approximately 70% Black and brown population,”

Abu Edwards of the Philadelphia NAACP and All Voting Is Local has worked the polls, and said it’s a job you really have to desire to do.

“You work out problems when people can’t find their polling location, you work with frustrated voters, you guys are the real superheroes, you guys don’t get thanked enough,” Edwards said.

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Former U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, who is the chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, said the pay bump is important to retain and bring new people into the Election Day fold.

“Thank you for thinking of the people that are out there every single Election Day,” Brady said. ”You know, they don’t have to show up and if they don’t show up, there’s no election. You can’t do anything about it. They’re out 14, 15 hours a day. And I thank you for recognizing that and trying to put a little bit more money there.”

City Councilmember Kendra Brooks is an independent representing the Working Families Party.  She has been a part of many elections and admits it’s a long, tiring day.

“I grew up as a poll worker doing work because my grandmother was a judge of elections. And I just remember, like my colleagues said, long, long days. And we had to let folks know being part of this doesn’t mean it has to be just labor. It could be a labor of love and it could be satisfaction, satisfaction by ending the day with a decent pay,” she said.

The raise, expected to be approved later this month, will increase base pay from $120 to $200 per day. Poll workers will be paid another $50 for pre-election training.

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