With early voting for the March 1 primary election two weeks away, Williamson County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to increase the hourly pay rate for early voting election workers by $2 during its Feb. 1 meeting.

According to county documents, the action increases the hourly rate from $10 to $12 for early voting alternate supervisors and clerks working the 2022 Democratic and Republican primary elections.

Chris Davis, Williamson County elections administrator, said this increase will make the pay rate for early voting primary election poll workers equal to that of election day poll workers, who for primary elections are paid $12 an hour by their respective party.

"We are trying to bring up the wage for the early voting alternate supervisor and clerks to match that," Davis said.

Increasing the early voting pay rate will cost the county approximately $50,800 from the general fund, according to county documents.

Jan Pelosi, a Williamson County resident who said she tries to work as many elections as possible, expressed support for the item during the Feb. 1 meeting.

"Anybody that will put themselves out there to work an election should be applauded and should be compensated for their time," Pelosi said.

Early voting for the March 1 primary elections runs from Feb. 14-25. Registered voters will cast ballots in either the Republican or Democratic primary for a number of state and local positions, including three positions on Williamson County Commissioners Court. Williamson County has 18 early voting locations. The last day to register to vote in the primary was Jan. 31.

In the agenda packet, the county said poll workers have voiced hesitancy to continue working elections at the currently offered pay level when other employment opportunities with higher pay rates are readily available.

Echoing that concern, County Judge Bill Gravell said although the county has increased the pay for other positions, it is still struggling to find workers.

"I would just encourage anyone ... that if you have the time and if you are willing, contact our elections department. I am certain that there is still need for more folks to work early voting and election day as well," Gravell said. "I know the pay perhaps isn't as much as you would want, but just remember that it's a privilege to serve and work an election."

On Feb. 1, neighboring Travis County said its elections division was in "dire need" of poll workers to staff early and election day voting for the March 1 primary. In a release, Travis County said poll workers are compensated between $15-$17 per hour.