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Registered Bexar County voters: If you want to help others vote this fall and make some money as well, the Bexar County Elections Department is hiring election judges and clerks.
With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, the Elections Department wants to bolster its election worker staffing. Right now, the County has about 625 election workers ready to go, but Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen has her sights set on at least doubling that number.
“We’re going to have probably 1,200 to 1,500 people on the ground on Election Day,” Callanen said Monday. “That’s my goal number. That would give us at least two judges and three clerks at each poll, so four or five people at each poll site. That’s our goal.”
Election judges qualify voters at poll sites and help sign in voters before they cast their ballots. Election clerks assist voters, walk them to the voting units, and give them the “I Voted” sticker, Callanen said.
Each poll site has at least three workers, though Callanen plans on putting an extra person at each location to help regulate the flow of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic. Presiding judges serve as the “main” election judge at the poll site and make $17 an hour. Alternate judges take over for presiding judges when the latter steps out of the room and make $16 an hour. Election clerks make $15 per hour.
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All election workers get paid, said Rose Marie DeHoyos, an election judge and Bexar County Democratic Party precinct chair.
“The pay is good,” DeHoyos said. “A lot of people think we do this as volunteers.”
DeHoyos first served as an election judge in 2008. The 75-year-old will not be working the general election, as her daughter was recently diagnosed with cancer and she did not want to risk contracting the coronavirus and potentially infecting her daughter, DeHoyos said. She is also one of the many election workers over the age of 65, technically at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The average age of election workers in Bexar County is 72, according to Callanen.
Older election workers who have served as judges and clerks for a long time take their duties seriously, Callanen said.
“That age group takes voting as a civic duty,” she said. “They want to be there. Look at [longtime election judge] Velia Salinas. They will almost move heaven and earth to keep this going and stay working. But we are trying to recruit younger ones.”
In July, 11 voting locations closed before Election Day due to election workers who feared for their health deciding against working. More than 200 voting locations were still available to Bexar County voters for the July primary runoff elections. Because Bexar County uses the vote center model, Bexar County voters can cast ballots anywhere in the county. However, recruiting younger people to serve as election judges could help ensure no last-minute voting site closures happen again, DeHoyos said.
Callanen said in past years, the Elections Department has recruited high school students to work during early voting and on Election Day. Students aged 16 years or older, with the permission of their principal or legal guardian in charge of their schooling, can serve as election clerks under a program from the secretary of state’s office. But with the pandemic affecting area schools’ operations, Callanen said she’s not sure how that will work this fall.
“They can get the day off of school, not get docked for attendance, work the poll site all day long, and we pay them,” Callanen said. “We always have had a lot of success with the student clerks. We try to utilize them but we’re not so sure right now – are schools going to be in, not in?”
Any registered voter in Bexar County can become an election judge, Callanen said. Those interested can apply with the Elections Department. Applicants then go through eight hours of training. That training is still happening in person, since part of the job is understanding how to work the technology involved with elections, Callanen said. But the size of classes has shrunk considerably; the classroom that previously sat up to 80 trainees now only allows 30 at a time, Callanen said.
“The onus is on my trainer,” Callanen said. “She’s had to double classes because we cut down the individual [number] of people in training.”
Election judge classes are held every day up until the Thursday before Election Day, Callanen said. Meanwhile, election clerks’ training requires less time invested. They only need one hour of training, and that can be done virtually, Callanen said.
DeHoyos urged anyone with interest to apply and complete the election worker training before voting begins. She added that she felt secure with the safety precautions put in place for voters and election workers by the Elections Department.
“You couldn’t work in a safer environment than being there,” she said. “They are long hours, but … it’s just a fun thing to do. Depending on who you’re working with, you can make the day go by fast. It’s not a hard job. It’s a really rewarding job, and I enjoy it.”
Early voting begins Oct. 13. Election Day is Nov. 3. People registering to vote must have their application postmarked and sent to the Elections Department by Oct. 5.