Facilitating Democracy … For $200 A Day

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Paul Bales is said Election Day is always profitable for him, no matter who wins.

Today is his fourth year as a poll worker, this time at 40 West Tremont, a polling station in University Heights. He said the work is tough, but the paycheck is worth it — especially since he lost his job.

At noon today, he was working by the door as a greeter. “My job is to point people to their district,” he said. Today is especially difficult because of Governor Cuomo’s new rule allowing voters to use any polling station.

“People think its easy to work the election,” said Bales, who said it can be a challenge to be on his feet all day. A typical shift starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m., with two hours worth of breaks throughout the day. Plus, workers take shifts doing different tasks, from greeting or working at the sign-in counter, to herding voters into the right lines.

“I do it because I get $200 a day,” he said. Poll workers also get another $100 for a five-hour class they take the day before. “I think I’m gonna buy an Ipad Mini” he said.

In Hunts Point, the coordinator of the polling site at the School of Performing Arts on Fox Street, Altagracia Cruz, 62, had been there since 4:45 a.m., and said she probably wouldn’t leave until after 10 p.m.

She said the constant flow of people allowed for few breaks for the workers.

“You don’t get to breathe,” she said. “There was a line outside starting when we opened at 6 a.m., and look, there’s still one now,” she said in the early afternoon.

Bales, who describes himself as a laid-off office worker, said he voted for Obama this year. “I’m hoping the next president can get us some more jobs,” he said.

With reporting by Rachel Bryson-Brockmann.

Produced in cooperation with CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s NYC News Service.

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