BEVERLY — The city clerk in Beverly is seeking a raise for election workers at a time when she says the job is becoming “harder than ever.”
In a letter to the City Council, City Clerk Lisa Kent proposed nearly doubling the pay for election workers. Kent said the city had a hard time finding workers last year in the midst of a pandemic and new rules regarding mail-in and early voting that make the job more demanding.
“I do believe a lot of the temporary COVID-19 election laws will become permanent and we need to make sure that we pay our election workers what they deserve so they stay with us,” Kent said.
Election workers in Beverly are paid a flat rate of $125 or $150, depending on their duties. The average day is 14 to 16 hours long, with two unpaid hours for lunch and dinner breaks. The pay averages out to less than the state’s minimum wage of $14.25 per hour.
Kent has proposed raising the pay to $275 per election for wardens, $260 for clerks, and $235 for inspectors. Wardens supervise the other election workers, clerks are responsible for custody of the ballots and recording voter activity, and inspectors check off the names of voters and hand them their ballots.
Kent said in her letter that election workers have not had a raise in her five years in the clerk’s office, and she does not know when they last received one.
“The 2020 elections with COVID-19 restrictions and all the new laws were unprecedented,” Kent wrote. “Without our dedicated election workers we would not have the success that we had.”
Salem is also looking to increase election workers’ pay, by $30, for the upcoming elections, according to City Clerk Ilene Simons. Pay rates range from $180 to $220, depending on responsibilities.
Simons said the increase would bring the lowest rate to $210, which amounts to $15 an hour for a 14-hour day, matching what will be the state’s minimum wage in 2023.
In Danvers, Town Clerk Catherine Ellsworth said there are no plans to increase pay for election workers. The current stipends range from $125 to $150.
Beverly election worker Lydia Weston said a raise would be “wonderful,” especially considering that many poll workers are older and on fixed incomes. She thinks the higher rates would also entice more people, and perhaps younger people, to do the work. She said many people don’t even realize it’s a paid job.
Either way, Weston, 78, said she loves the work and the interaction with voters.
“I feel valued and that’s huge for me,” she said. “I was born here and I love my city. I feel like I’m playing a little part in it.”
In her letter, Kent said she would present the pay increase to Mayor Mike Cahill and Finance Director Bryant Ayles for her 2023 budget, and she asked city councilors for their support.
Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.