Phelps County Clerk Pam Grow is hoping to get more election judges for the upcoming November 3 general election, as she is encountering a shortage of judges. Grow has heard concerns from current and potential judges and hopes to get more involved.
“Successful elections have often been due to a veritable army of retirees serving competently and efficiently as judges. How things have changed. Since many of our judges are concerned about the SARS-CoV-2 viral strain circulating, the upcoming November 3, 2020, General Election is going to depend on engaging a wider population,” Grow said.
She feels in-person voting is important, but notes this year brings with it new challenges.
“I personally feel in-person voting is to be encouraged. But, the demands for in-person voting in our current circumstances, at 19 polling places, are going to require us to pull from a broader swath of the population,” she said.
She noted the retiree volunteers who usually man these polling places are less likely to volunteer their time with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other volunteers will be needed to make the election efficient and successful.
“It has taken me by surprise to hear, on occasion, that employed people are afraid that their employer would sanction them if they worked as an election judge. Perhaps, it would be a very good thing, if employed people were more active in elections,” Grow said.
According to Missouri law, it is illegal for an election judge to be negatively effected in the workplace, should they choose to volunteer as an election judge.
“So, with that in mind, I would like all employers in the county to appreciate that Missouri Statute (RSMo 115.102) prohibits and employer from terminating, disciplining, threatening, or taking adverse actions against an employee based on the employee’s service as an election judge. The law further states that the employee who is appointed may be absent on election day for the period of time that the election authority requires,” she said.
“It is on the employee to notify their employee at least seven days prior to an election that they will be absent from work on election day. Any employee who is punished for serving on election day, assuming they have given the proper notice, have the ability to bring a civil case against their employer," Grow said.
“Please, if you are an employer, consider whether you may have employees who would serve ably as election judges. We pay a stipend of between $120 and $150 for the full day, in addition to a small stipend for the statutorily require training,” she said. “We also reimburse for mileage to and from training and the polls.”
She encourages anyone who has an interest in serving as an election judge to contact the Phelps County Clerk’s Office at 573-458-6115 to get registered or to learn more about serving. This year has been unique for elections, after the April election was postponed due to the stay-at-home orders across the state and locally. Grow hopes to overcome these new challenges and the changes they have brought by bringing in new blood to help serve and encourages anyone in the county who wants to help to get involved.