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View: Westchester Election Bosses Won’t Listen
Marylou Green and Janet Zagoria, Journal News, July 11, 2015. Westchester’s election commissioners, insulated against criticism, showed their aloofness by ignoring calls to assist tired poll workers. Read below or go online to http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/07/11/westchester-election-bosses-listen/29951689/
Because the Westchester County Board of Elections commissioners have acted as department heads while serving as their respective party bosses, they have been effectively insulated against criticism. No one in either the county administration or the county legislature has wanted to take them on. And whereas previously, when Carolee Sunderland was the GOP commissioner, the board was very open, now, it tends to be closed and unresponsive to suggestions from outside.
Our efforts to get the board to adopt split shifts for poll workers, officially called election inspectors, is a case in point. The commissioners claim they are chronically short of election inspectors, while acknowledging that senior citizens are their most responsible workers. Meanwhile, as these workers find it harder to manage the 16-hour-plus day as they age, they retire.
Accordingly, in 2013, under the auspices of its foundation, the League of Women Voters of Westchester’s county government committee moved to survey the election inspectors about split shifts. First, we asked the Board of Elections for a list of these workers. We received no response, so we applied to the state under the Freedom of Information Act. Advised that we should try going through the county attorney, we did so; within a day we received the list of 4,440 names.
Randomly selecting 40 percent of them (1,776), we hoped for a statistically significant response of 20 percent (355). We heard from more than 34 percent (605 election inspectors), nearly 64 percent of whom favored introducing the split-shift option, whether or not they wanted to pick it up for themselves. We followed up this result with a recommendation to the board that it offer such a possibility, as many local municipalities did when they controlled elections, as some New York counties do now and as the state has made legal. (Read about the survey results below, right after this article.)
We never heard from the board. Last November, when one of our member election inspectors asked for a shorter shift, she was turned down. Meanwhile, responders to our survey have asked what is being done on the issue, in the mistaken assumption that we can effect a change.
We cannot. The League is an independent, non-partisan, grassroots organization whose purpose is to promote informed citizens’ participation in government.
We recognize that the Board of Elections is constrained by the chain-of-custody requirement so important in contested election results and that split shifts would involve work for them in training, tracking, paying, etc. But we believe that with the will and some additional organizational effort, the commissioners could put shorter shifts into place, adding to the pool of poll workers they claim they need. At the very least, we think they have an obligation to respond to the taxpayers who underwrite their salaries.
Green is president of the League of Women Voters of Westchester and Zagoria is chair of the LWVW’s County Government Committee.
Results of the League of Women Voters Education Foundation's Survey of Split Shifts for Elections Inspectors
The League of Women Voters of Westchester (LWVW), a number of whose members serve as Election Inspectors (EIs), has for some time wondered if splitting poll-working shifts might not: 1) halt the drop-off of inspectors as they age and find the 16-plus-hour day too burdensome, and 2) attract much-needed new recruits. With these factors in mind and with the State having made split shifts legal, in mid-March 2014 we sent a brief survey (see attached) to a randomized sample of 1,776 of the individuals on the Board of Elections 2013 list of 4,440 EIs. We hoped for a statistically significant 20% return of 355, but as of April 25th, we had received 605 responses, or 34%, without correcting for the nearly 9% of pieces that were undeliverable. This response rate far exceeded our expectations. Moreover, nearly 64% of responders favor the option of split shifts.
The great majority of responders said they have served more than three years, often as chairperson. So, they are experienced workers. And many of them indicated that they prefer working a full day, mainly because they need the money, although they mentioned the appeal of civic duty and socializing as well. They are among the 379 EIs who favor split shifts in anticipation of growing older and unable to manage the long day, for the sake of older colleagues or those with family responsibilities, or because shorter shifts might attract more volunteers.
A number of those favoring split shifts do worry that a shorter
shift might carry less pay. To those we spoke to, we said that it
undoubtedly would but that it would be up to the Board of Elections (BOE) to set the terms of such shifts both in hours and pay. Quite a few EIs pressed, in fact, for a higher level of pay, even though at $225.00 for the day, it works out to $14.00 an hour for 16 hours, nearly twice the minimum wage.
We invited responders to make comments, and at least half took the time to do so. A sample of their comments is attached. Also, a surprising number of responders gave their email and/or street addresses so as to be able to receive the survey results directly.
A SAMPLE OF COMMENTS
ON THE LWVW’S SURVEY ON SPLIT SHIFTS
“Until the last two years, I split the day with [name omitted]. It worked very well for both of us. I prefer a split shift.”
“I like splitting the shift. Would be great. We wouldn’t have to rush while we vote, etc.”
“I think it would be a good idea. It certainly would make more people willing to work at the polls.”
“Frankly, the opportunity to earn $225 outweighs the shorter shift. This is a welcome supplement to Social Security and pensions.”
“I am a former member of the League of Women Voters. This is a long- overdue study…. After each Election Day or Primary Day, I think that might be my last one because the day is so long. But I feel compelled by civic duty to return again for the next election.”
“I find working 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. very grueling.”
“I am a graduate student. Working election day is a great little paycheck for me, while performing a civic duty.”
“Longer hours increase the possibility of reducing the effectiveness of the worker.”
“”We’ve been doing [split shifts] in the past few years, and [it] doesn’t seem to cause any problems. I consider it positive for many.”
“I feel that most people will work the whole day but that [split shifts] might attract more people.”
“Because the very ‘important factor’ in this equation — MONEY, has not been mentioned, I find myself in a state of ambivalence.”
“Split shift is a great idea.”
“If I’m going to do this, then I would rather do the entire day. However, it would be nice to have a ½-day option.”
“I think that election inspectors who have maintained the 16-hours days… are more responsible and dedicated to that work than people who work a split shift.”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Yes, split the shifts, so people can get home to family, take care of other pressing issues and don’t feel zombielike at the end…”
“Hopefully, offering [a] split shift would allow more younger/middle-age people to work…”
“I don’t see why this wouldn’t work — it’s done at school elections.”
“I work because of the pay, which helps me with my food and bills (electrical).
“I’ve heard many complaints re long work day.”
“I like working the full shift. If given a choice, I prefer the full shift.”
“Definitely too long a day. Hard to sleep [the] night before know you have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and do not return until approximately 10:00 p.m.”
“It would be nice to have the CHOICE of working a split shift.”
“I prefer working full shift but …. Offering an option would be O.K. to do and it would be up to the person.”
“I think it would create a lot of scheduling problems. If the day is too long, don’t work!”
“Driving to Town Hall with election-inspectors materials to run in (as required) after working 16 hours straight, I came close to having an accident one November. My fault, but dangerous to others, too. I would prefer a half-shift (at half-pay).”
“I see the merits of ‘some’ split shifts. I am concerned about continuity at the sites… and have concerns of issues resulting from 2nd-shift folks not showing up as scheduled.”
“It takes time for the inspectors to know each other and [one another’s] working habits …. Having spent up to 4 hours forming a team [as Chair], I would hate to spend another few hours fitting the new persons into the team.”
“”… working with the same people all day is a plus. A routine is set and followed from the morning to evening.”
“I enjoy election day. The day is long and fulfilling. To work half the day is half as appealing.”
LWVW QUESTIONNAIRE ON SPLIT SHIFTS
 How many years have you served as an election inspector?
 [ ] One
 [ ] 2-3
 [ ] More than 3
 In what capacity(ies) have you served?
 Do you favor offering to election inspectors the option of working a split
 [ ] Yes
[217/ [ ] No
 Would the possibility of a shorter shift positively affect your own decision
to serve as an EI in future?
 [ ] Yes
 [ ] No
Download the entire document
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the New York State Elections website
the Westchester Board of Elections
League of Women Voters Gearing Up With Election Info Via Web Sites, Booklets and Forums
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization, is gearing up as it does every fall to register voters, plan Candidate Forums, collect and organize candidate information on the web and in print, and encourage every citizen to vote.
“With internet technology, we have the tools to reach people with the information they need quickly and easily,” said Marianna Stout, Voter Service Chair, LWV of Westchester.
The LWV of Westchester has asked all candidates in the county to respond on www.Vote411.org, to a questionnaire asking for basic biographical information, for their positions on major issues and to provide their links to further information. Voters, by typing in their address, will access a personalized ballot with candidates for their local district; they can also find the address of their polling place and directions on getting there. A link to a voter registration form is also on the www.Vote411.org site.
The League continues to print a Voters Guide of candidate information submitted to the Vote411 website by the time of the print deadline. If there are questions, one can call the LWV Westchester office at 914-949-0507 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another traditional League service is the sponsoring of Candidate Forums as well as providing trained moderators to forums sponsored by others. At these forums, or debates, voters can meet and question the candidates or they can watch a replay on the web or on local access cable TV. The schedule will be posted on the home page of this website.
League members will also be registering voters at sites throughout the county, including on National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 23.
“We urge everyone to be registered to vote, or reregister if you have moved,” said Stout. “And it is important to become knowledgeable about the candidates and the issues. The people we send to represent us in Albany and Washington can make a big difference.”
More on Split Shifts for Election Inspectors
May 29, 2014
To the Editor
P.O. Box 418
14 Harwood Court
Scarsdale, NY 10583
The League of Women Voters of Westchester (LWVW), many of whose members have served as election inspectors, agrees with Robert M. Phillips (letter of May 23, 2014) that the County Board of Elections informs election inspectors in advance of the terms of the job, the responsibilities it entails and the need for strict accountability at the end of the Election Day. But he misses the point of our survey and misreads the results.
Experience counts. That is why the LWVW surveyed a random sample of those who already have served as election inspectors. These workers generally are proud that they have been able to contribute to an elections process that is so vital to our democracy, and many would like to continue. But as they grow older, a number of them feel the press of a day that can last more then 16 hours. They would like the option of a shorter shift. They also see that a shorter day might bring in a new pool of people willing to serve.
The League did not, as Mr. Phillips states, go behind the back of the Board of Elections in conducting its survey. For years, we have suggested that the commissioners try out shorter shifts, used successfully in school elections and in local municipalities when their clerks were in charge. Since 2012, when New York State legalized such shifts, we have pushed the issue. When the Board did not move in this direction, in 2013, we requested the list of inspectors for a survey. We received the list after going through the State’s Freedom of Information Law. As unpaid volunteers, we do not need anyone’s authorization to conduct a survey.
As for the numbers, Mr. Phillips should check them again. Of the 4,440 names provided to us, on March 15, 2014, we sent surveys to 1,776 inspectors, 40% of the total. We hoped for a statistically significant 20% return. The Post Office returned 157 surveys as undeliverable. Of the remainder, by the time we closed the survey on April 25th, we had received 605 returns (34%, not counting the undeliverables). We regard this as a success, particularly as the majority of responders not only took the time to write comments but also gave their email addresses so as to receive the survey results as soon as available. Sixty-three percent of these responders would like the option of a shorter shift.
Finally, let me say that the League’s mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government, to work to increase understanding of public policy issues, and to influence public policy through non-partisan education and advocacy on issues. At election time, we are busy answering the questions of voters, who often cannot get through to the Board of Elections. Our survey of election inspectors, seeking their informed opinions on something about which they have experience, is a time-honored way of conducting research in keeping with our mission and our work. We encourage anyone wishing to read our report of the survey results and to see a good sampling of responders’ comments to go to our website www.lwvwestchester.org.
JANET D. ZAGORIA. Chair,
LWVW County Government Committee
(See survey responses at left on this page)
Voter Service Moderators Needed!
Moderator Training Available
Paul Schwarz of the White Plains LWV, Moderators' Coordinator for the LWV of Westchester, schedules moderators to lead candidate debates and would like to increase the number of people he can call on. He will be holding one or more training sessions for persons who would like to explore becoming a moderator.
Moderators are not assigned to their own community. Debates, or forums, are usually sponsored by a local League but sometimes by another group in a community. The moderators task is conduct the debate so candidates are treated fairly and impartially. There are League guidelines to follow and moderators are welcomed and treated with respect. Contact Paul at PKSchwarz1@gmail.com
Fair Campaign Practices Committee
In 1991 the League of Women Voters of Westchester established the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee as a separate and independent entity. The League plays no role in the Committee's deliberations or decisions; the League does provide support services and administers the funding. The Committee is comprised of community leaders who represent a wide range of public interests and are recognized as being independent and fair minded. Members representing recognized political parties serve ex-officio without vote; they contribute political perspective and experience to the discussion. Link here to the FCPC.