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County puts millions toward increasing wages for election workers

Friday, January 21, 2022 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court is investing big in election infrastructure, putting $1.3 million toward a voting system upgrade, including $700,000 to raise wages for all election workers in the county.

“The agenda includes significant investments in our electoral system that are going to continue to make Travis County’s one of the safest, most fair and accessible election systems in the state of Texas,” County Judge Andy Brown said Tuesday.

Election clerks will receive a wage increase, up from $10 to $15 per hour. This marks just a fraction of the total money the county plans to spend on elections this year. In September 2021, Travis County announced it would invest $5.8 million in Fiscal Year 2022 toward a “robust elections office.” The expanded budget will cover the purchase of new technology and additional staff.

“I just want to say that our election workers are the backbone of our election system here, and I’m really proud to cast my vote in support of this work today,” Brown told commissioners.

The move comes as a new Texas voting law, Senate Bill 1, threatens to penalize election workers for engaging in certain practices.

“County election officials in Texas have said they’re nervous about recruitment because the new voting law creates penalties aimed at election workers, among other things,” reported KUT’s Ashley Lopez.

SB 1 threatens imprisonment and fines for election officials who solicit mail-in ballots. “The early voting clerk may make no attempt to solicit a person to complete an application for an early voting ballot by mail, whether directly or through a third party,” the bill reads.

The law’s detractors point out that the language of the bill prevents election workers from doing critical aspects of their job, such as encouraging voters to consider all options, educating voters about their rights, or explaining the benefits of mail-in voting.

Election worker positions are currently available on the Travis County website for the upcoming elections. Some of the open positions are ballot-by-mail clerks, box truck drivers, call center representatives, central receiving station election workers and election day poll workers. Positions pay $15-$17 per hour.

Early voting ends today for the city’s special election, which takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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