Pike County election commissioners say pollworkers aren’t being paid soon enough after serving, which could cut down on people willing to take the job.

Supervisors said they’re following a longtime practice. On Thursday, they voted 3-2 to “memorialize” the unwritten policy that says pollworkers serving in elections without runoffs be paid no later than the end of the month, while those serving in a runoff get paid no later than the 15th of the following month.

That means pollworkers in the Aug. 27 runoff were not paid until late September, and those in the Nov. 5 general election aren’t scheduled to be paid until Nov. 27.

Supervisors Chuck Lambert, Faye Hodges and Luke Brewer supported the motion, while Gary Honea and Tazwell Bowsky (voting by telephone) opposed.

Lambert said conflict apparently arose when election commissioners asked that Nov. 5 pollworkers be paid by the 15th and they weren’t.

County administrator Tami Dangerfield said she didn’t expect the topic to become an issue before the board.

“This whole commotion would not have taken place if I had just been asked,” Dangerfield said. “I did not know until yesterday that was a problem.”

She said she never promised to issue the checks early. 

Also, two pollworkers who worked the runoff in August haven’t received their checks. Dangerfield said she mailed them.

However, the pollworkers didn’t get them because of “mail delivery issues,” so Dangerfield will reissue the checks in the next cycle.

Election commission chair Trudy Berger asked for all the checks to be cut immediately. If they’re not sent out until Nov. 27, pollworkers probably won’t get them until after the holiday — and after the Black Friday holiday sales.

Late payment is a deterrent to hiring pollworkers, Berger said.

“It’s very hard to get pollworkers. We have a runoff next week. What if they don’t show up?” Berger said, referring to a South Pike District 4 school board runoff Tuesday.

Lambert said paying pollworkers is more involved than simply cutting a check as it involves a separate program.

Dangerfield said she will issue the checks early if directed by the board.

Commissioner Stacee Ott asked the board to do so. “Can we get them paid very soon?” she implored.

Honea supported the request, saying commissioners were under the impression pollworkers would be paid earlier. “I say write them a check,” he said.

Brewer blamed the dispute on a “communication lapse” and said it’s Dangerfield’s call when to issue the checks as long as it’s done within the guidelines.

“We don’t need to rush up something because of a lack of communication,” Brewer said.

Supervisor Faye Hodges agreed.

“We are generally not and should not be involved in the day-to-day, and that’s because of issues like this,” she said.

Lambert said pollworkers can come to the courthouse and pick up their checks on the 27th if they need them before Thanksgiving. And he agreed it’s up to Dangerfield when to issue the checks as long as they don’t go past the deadline.

“She’s been operating under the guidelines that we’ve been following for years,” Lambert said.

There are 136 pollworkers and they get $115 a day for serving in elections.

Commissioner Shirley Fitzgerald said it’s important to pay pollworkers promptly as it’s increasingly difficult to get people to serve.

“Take into consideration, please, that it is very hard to get pollworkers,” she said.

“They really want their checks as soon as possible.”

If not, she warned, “We’re going to get to the day where we’re going to have to go out in the street and get pollworkers.”

Commissioner Jennifer Gatlin-Barnes apologized for any misunderstanding between commissioners and Dangerfield.

“We’re sorry, Tami. We have not meant to offend,” Barnes said.

She said commissioners get complaints from pollworkers for not being paid promptly.

Dangerfield said she will do her best to get the checks out soon, but cautioned that other departments might want to be paid earlier as well.

Four of the current supervisors are going out of office at the end of the year, and Lambert said the incoming board can change the payment guidelines if they choose.

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