By TERRY SIMONSON
Tulsa County Director of Governmental Affairs
When there is an election in Tulsa County, the Tulsa County Election Board is responsible for making sure the voting process is flawless. Preparing for a smooth process, which is free of any doubt about the integrity of the results, requires more than just properly working machines. It primarily relies upon the precinct officials who are there from the time the polls open until they close.
In a sense, these workers are the glue to the process and the managers of the integrity. That is why the Election Board is concerned that we don’t have enough citizens volunteering to serve as precinct officials in each of the precincts in Tulsa County.
Historically, precinct officials have primarily been retired senior citizens because they have the time. But the availability of seniors has been diminishing, and this is why the Election Board is rightfully concerned that it has enough citizens on Election Day to man the polls.
Each precinct has three officials: the Inspector, the Judge, and the Clerk. Each has a specific duty in the voting process. To serve in these capacities requires a one day training program at the Election Board.
Precinct officials are paid for their service on Election Day.
Perhaps it’s time for our business community to consider how they can help with the importance of these responsibilities.
Just as our business community has recognized the importance of the Day of Caring by allowing their employees to volunteer one day helping others, we also need to have a Day of Citizenship where businesses would allow employees to serve as precinct officials with no loss of pay or loss of personal leave time.
If an employee is allowed to participate as a precinct official without a loss of pay, the money they receive from the Election Board could be returned to their employer who in turn could pledge this money to a nonprofit agency of their choice.
When a business embraces this Day of Citizenship by serving our community on election day this becomes a win-win-win-win-win for all involved: The company wins praise and the good will from the community for valuing and helping with this important responsibility of citizenship; the employee wins with the satisfaction of having played a key role in the democratic process; the nonprofit chosen by the company to receive what the employee is paid from the election board wins by receiving unexpected yet welcomed financial help; and the Election Board wins because it has the certainty of knowing it has a reliable force of precinct officials. And the citizens win with a smooth running, quick voting process.
The Election Board provides the one day of training which the employee would have to attend. Training is from 830 to 330. If there is a large response of interest from employees in a company, the Election Board staff could consider doing the training on site at the company.
The company’s commitment is to allow the employee to spend two days supporting our democracy: one day of training and then serving as a precinct official on an Election Day.
Just as the Day of Caring benefits our community, a Day of Citizenship would bring our business community and the Election Board together in supporting one of the most important freedoms we have: the freedom and privilege of voting.
This privilege, like all of our freedoms, is not free. Tulsa businesses could set the national example by showing that citizenship responsibility is corporate responsibility and that would be a great contribution to our democracy.