TRENTON, N.J. – An unprecedented election season amid a global pandemic and staggering joblessness motivated Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi to draft legislation that would encourage the unemployed to work on behalf of the boards of election.
“We don’t only need poll workers willing to work on Election Day, but we will need people to continue to count ballots,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen). “The confusion over the vote-by-mail process is compounded by the coronavirus and the fact that many people are unaware that they will not be permitted to vote in person on a machine.”
Schepisi’s bill (A4794) would protect unemployment benefits from being affected by any wages earned as a result of working for a district board of elections. Currently, only Election Day work is exempt from the state’s unemployment compensation law.
“We shouldn’t be punishing our unemployed workers who sign up to ensure the democratic process continues during this public health emergency,” said Schepisi. “Encouraging participation by letting workers keep a little more money in their pockets is the least we can do.”
More than 1.63 million New Jersey workers have filed unemployment claims since the coronavirus shutdown businesses. Total permanent U.S. job loss is about 3.8 million.
Although there will be fewer polling places and only those unable to fill out a physical ballot will be permitted to use a machine, New Jersey estimates it will need anywhere from 15,000 to 17,000 poll workers.
A similar bill prohibiting poll worker wages from factoring into unemployment compensation passed the North Carolina Legislature in June.