Help Wanted: Low pay, long hours, impossible demands, no benefits

A Courant article reminds us of an idea out of left-field enacted last year by the General Assembly as a “rat*”: Deadline Looms For Regional Election Monitors <read>

When the Connecticut General Assembly passed the budget implementer bill in June 2015, buried in its 702 pages was the stipulation that regional election monitors be in place by March 1.

Those regional monitors were to be hired by each of the nine planning regions in the state. They would be certified by the Secretary of State’s office, but not paid by them. They would represent, consult with, and act on the SOS’s behalf, but would not be state employees. Instead, each council of government would be expected to contract an individual to serve as a monitor and enter into a memorandum of understanding with the SOS about them.

But plenty of questions have yet to be answered with a March 1 deadline and April 26 primary on the horizon.

“There are a lot of details still to be worked out,” Filchak said. “We have a lot of questions about the ‘what ifs’ and those take time to work out.”

One question concerns liability issues. The REM would be an employee of the COG, but his or her duties would include working with registrars in the towns of each COG. NECCOG has 16 towns in its region. The REM for NECCOG would have to do several things for each of those municipalities.

They’d have to hold regional instructional sessions for moderators and alternate moderators. They might be called on to assist registrars in preparing for and conducting elections, primaries, a recanvass, or audit. And they would be expected to transmit any order issued by the SOS…

Legislation calls for $100,000 to be allocated for REMs. How that money will be divided up between nine COGs and what the hours and benefits will be is still unknown.

SOS Communications Director Patrick Gallahue said details are still being worked out between the COGs and the SOS office. He said the REMs would provide supplemental assistance to local election officials such as trainings, audits, and help with the implementation of new laws or elections hardware and software.

Gentle reader, before you rush out and apply we note several items which might not be apparent:

  • You will be a contractor, so there will be no benefits. The annual pay will be about $11,111.
  • At minimum in 2016 expect to work at least three 18-24 hour days supervising one election and two primary elections.
  • You will receive training, leading to a required certification. Training will attending instruction for 2-4 hours on 9 occasions (moderator and registrar certification), several hours of online training, and passing several tests at home (be sure not to have someone else take the test for you). (For now lets ingnore the law for certification that says you cannot be so certified, unless you are simultaneously serving as a registrar or deputy registrar, which also requires performing a very demanding job for those same three 18-24 hour days.)
  • You will be directly supervising about 16-24 individuals in about 8 to 12 towns, while they are working those 18-24 hour days.
  • You may be singly or jointly responsible for any errors and legal violations of those individuals or the several hundred temporary individuals they employ for those three days a year. You will also be responsible for assisting in the training of all those individuals. Not to worry, some of those individuals have been performing their duties for many years. Others will be very new to their jobs. None of the registrars are currently certified, but most will be by November 2017. (So you might want to check very carefully before elections, after elections, and all year, that they faithfully perform all their many legally mandated responsibilities).
  • It may, in some cases, be a bit challenging: The two registrars in each town are from opposing parties, most get along well, yet many bicker constantly and in rare cases assaulted their “partner” from the other party. Even though many have performed well for years, some frequently make mistakes, failing to follow the law. Your supervisor has little or no experience in the actual job you will be supervising, yet is confident that your registrars will all perform well once they are certified, with your guidance.
  • You will not have to worry about firing anyone. Registrars are elected officials – no matter what, they will stay on the job, except in very rare circumstances, as yet, never tested in court.

* Def: Rat – In Connecticut slang, a section of a long bill, a.k.a. Public Act**, inserted near the end of the session, usually near the end of a long bill, without hearings, by legislators unknown to the public. Legend has it that most pass without the knowledge of most legislators.
** Def: Public Act – A fictional drama performed in public.

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