I read the Nov. 17 Buffalo News report on the Erie County budget proposal and legislators’ concern about a shortage of elections inspectors. As a periodic participant as an election inspector, I offer this clue.
It’s not the pay. On balance, the process is a rewarding experience. There is a genuine feeling of performing a meaningful assignment. Interacting with the voters and co-inspectors is a delightful exercise in community spirit. What is not pleasant is the antediluvian polling hours.
Preparing a polling location, which includes verifying proper registration and voting materials are present, setting up multiple machines and recording initial tallies is a tedious process for the 30 minutes allocated for it. This is also true for closing.
Accuracy is paramount. This is sometimes done with inspectors who have never met previously, let alone worked as a team. Having to rise at 4:30 a.m., expecting to work until approximately 9:30 p.m., wanting to facilitate a continuous flow of cheerful voters, is anxiety inducing and leads to sleep depravation the previous night. Certainly not conducive to optimal productivity.
New York State’s 15 continuous polling hours are the longest in the nation. All other states have shorter polling hours, frequently supplemented with other options such as multiple voting days, mail-in ballots (other than absentee), et al. If the Board of Elections commissioners want to induce citizens to participate as election inspectors, they might want to consider cajoling their state representatives to modernize the process. As for increasing the pay, I would gladly donate mine to firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and other first responders. They are the true heroes of our society.