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Election worker pay still lags in Dallas County, workers and officials say

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Ed Timms
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KERA News
Pay for election workers in Dallas County has been slow in coming.

William Woods of Dallas served as an election judge during early voting and Election Day, one of more than 3,000 people the county relied on to help about 630,000 voters cast ballots.

But the story he told county officials on Tuesday was one of frustration — Woods still hasn’t received all the wages he’s owed.

“They did not pay me for setup. They did not pay me for bringing the supplies back,” he said at a meeting of the Dallas County commissioners.

Woods’ criticism of the county’s elections department echos what poll workers said last spring, when some checks were over 30 days late after back-to-back countywide elections.

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Bret Jaspers
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KERA News
Dallas County Elections Director Michael Scarpello.

The general election on November 8th avoided a repeat of those delays, according to Elections Director Michael Scarpello. He told commissioners that now, his department can push information over to the auditor’s office automatically so that department can process the payment.

“This was a huge win that really cut down the time,” Scarpello said.

He added that 800 people picked up checks last Friday and 538 on Monday. The remaining paychecks, about 2,500, are being mailed Tuesday.

Still, county commissioners on Tuesday expressed varying levels of concern about how quickly the department is fulfilling its promise to improve.

“Why would this cycle be different from prior cycles?” said Commissioner Theresa Daniel. “Elections are not a surprise.”

Commissioner John Wiley Price asked the county treasurer if poll worker paychecks had been delayed in past cycles. She told him that in the past, they had been sent before Thanksgiving.

Scarpello pushed back on the criticism, saying checks were issued within three weeks of Election Day if you exclude the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving weekend.

“I’m not sure what all the hand wringing is about,” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape, and we’re going to be in better shape as we work together.”

A solution is in the offing by next November, according to Scarpello and County Auditor Darryl Thomas. By then, the elections department should be using electronic timesheets and have increased the number of people receiving wages via direct deposit.

“By the end of Election Day, we should have the time, in our hands. And that’s really the route we want to go,” Thomas said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.