MEADVILLE — Crawford County Commissioners have taken both long-term and short-term steps to help ease the burden of finding poll workers to work in the election.
On Wednesday, commissioners, to help attract and retain poll workers, approved $10 salary increases for poll worker training and poll worker pay.
To help move the issue forward, commissioners also voted to start the process of consolidating electoral districts in Meadville and Titusville. Titusville would go from seven electoral districts to three.
Commissioners voted unanimously to begin the formal process of consolidating electoral districts in the county’s two towns. The commissioners had discussed the subject at the last meeting of the electoral committee two weeks ago and on Wednesday they voted to make the idea a reality.
“It makes sense to us both in the number of registered voters and in the physical locations,” said Commissioner Christopher Soff, who is also chairman of the election committee. Commissioner Francis Weiderspahn, who visited Titusville often during the election, said it was “long overdue.”
Commissioner Soff said no changes will come into effect until the 2023 primary election at the earliest. The information needs to be compiled, and Soff said he thinks there should be a public comment period. Any changes must be approved by the Court of Common Pleas.
If the changes are passed, the precincts of Titusville 1-1 and 1-2 would be combined into Titusville 1, Titusville 2-1 and 2-2 would become Titusville 2, and precincts 3, 4 and 5 would become Titusville 3.
Soff said he’s not worried the consolidation will cause problems with voters in terms of lineups and waiting. The largest of the consolidated constituencies would have 1,300 registered voters, the other two would have 1,000 and 800 registered voters.
Soff said he thinks the new neighborhoods will be “very manageable”. The Titusville precincts would not be among the largest in the county, at the meeting it was said that the largest electoral precinct in the county had over 2,000 registered voters.
To help attract poll workers in the meantime, the commissioners also approved pay raises for poll workers. Poll workers who take training will now receive $20, instead of $10. There is a stipulation that in order to get payment for training, poll workers must actually work at polling stations on election day.
“Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newbie, we always, always, always urge you to come to poll worker training,” Soff said. It’s been said that with so many changes in state guidelines, it’s always good to get up to speed.
The commissioners also raised the salaries of five poll worker positions by $10. Positions include election judges, clerks and inspectors. The commissioners enacted the salary increase to remain competitive with other counties.
“We analyzed what other counties are doing and looked at our pay scale,” Soff said. Commissioner Weiderspahn was skeptical of a $10 increase and wanted a $5 increase instead. Weiderspahn said he hopes the state will step in and help the counties.
Commissioner Eric Henry was in favor of the $10 increase, saying it was due to “supply and demand.” Henry said that until election workers knock on doors to work the ballot boxes, it makes sense to keep influencing people. The measure passed by a vote of two to one, with Commissioner Weiderspahn being the only no.
Part of the reason the commissioners are taking such action to address the shortage of election workers was a state decision. The state ended the county’s permission to use county employees to help fill election worker vacancies. County employees were used to fill election worker vacancies in Titusville during the last election.
Dvorkin can be contacted by email at [email protected]