2010-06-10 / Local & State

Halt Vowed To Pa. Poll Workers Soliciting Tips

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – Officials in one eastern Pennsylvania county say they are taking steps to address reports of tips being solicited at polling places during last month’s primary election.

Political activist Rosanne LaRusso Kolberg said workers at two Lackawanna County polling places set up tip collecting receptacles during the May 18 primary. At Old Forge’s 3rd Ward, a cardboard box with a sign taped to it said, “Tips.’’ In Moosic’s 1st Ward, a wicker basket served the same purpose.

Kolberg said she also spotted the tip receptacles during the November elections, and she and fellow activist Roxanne Pauline complained to county election officials _ but the receptacles were back again during the May balloting.

“It kind of gives the impression that you need to pay (the workers) before you proceed,’’ Kolberg said.

Both receptacles last month had bills and change in them – not a lot, but some, Kolberg said. She said her mother used to work at the Moosic polling place and told her the practice had gone on for years.

“It’s just wrong,’’ Pauline said. “It’s just not ethical. It’s morally wrong.’’

Marion Medalis, county deputy director of voter registration, said she would address the matter at training sessions for poll workers.

“This is really the first I’ve heard about it,’’ she said. “They really shouldn’t be doing that. ... We obviously will address that at the next election.’’

Department of State spokesman Charles Young said election law says nothing about poll workers accepting tips and only outlines their proper compensation, which is $105 for inspectors, $140 for judges of elections and lesser rates for other workers. Young said, however, the practice of soliciting tips “raises ethical questions.’’

Commissioner Mike Washo said the tips basket and box may have begun as a quiet way of asking voters to help pay for coffee and doughnuts for workers during the day.

“I’m not trying to make excuses,’’ Washo said. “This may have started innocently, but it’s absolutely inappropriate ... We are looking at it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’

Mary Catherine Roper, a staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, said she had never heard of such a thing.

“Tip jars at the polls?’’ she asked. “I think it’s completely inappropriate. ... Even if you’re not demanding payment, even suggesting payment to exercise your right to vote is absolutely inappropriate.

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