Thursday, August 14, 2014

Research Q of the Week: All About the 'Benjamins' and Election Judge Pay (8/14)

Question: Which laws govern pay for election judges?

Answer: Lots of laws apply. And first, let us just say that election judges rock.

New this year (because it went up) consider Minnesota's state minimum wage law. For cities with a smaller annual budget— under $500,000—that state minimum is now $6.50 per hour. For cities with budgets higher than that, the minimum pay is $8 per hour. State law Minn. Stat. § 2014B.31 requires that election judges be paid at least that much, but city councils may decide to pay more than that. That same law allows a person to volunteer as an election judge and receive no pay, but they must submit a written statement about that to the city council at least ten days before the election.

What about federal minimum wage and election judges? A federal appeals court judge says no, election judges are exempt from federal minimum wage laws. Evers v. Tart, 48 F.3d 319, 321 (8th Cir. 1995).
The weeds
Ok, so we know the minimum pay for these helpful people. How does a city pay them and do they withhold taxes from that pay? Here’s the quick list:
  • Federal and/or state tax withholding, including withholding for Social Security and Medicare. If an election judge is paid less than $1,600 in 2014, no Social Security or Medicare taxes are withheld.
  • Issuing W-2s. If an election judge earns more than $600 in a year, cities must issue that person a W-2. (According to IRS contacts, W-2s may be issued to judges earning less than $600 for software and bookkeeping purposes).
  • PERA withholding. According to the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), election judges are local governmental employees, but the wages earned in these positions are not subject to PERA withholding.
  • Payroll. The federal government classifies election judges as employees. Therefore, it seems reasonable to pay election judges through the payroll system, rather than other accounts, to ensure accurate tracking of wages paid to each judge. However, this is offered as a practical tip, not as a requirement in law or rule
There you have it, a few laws governing election judge pay. No, these judges probably will not earn many “Benjamins,” a.k.a hundred-dollar bills, but they DO help cities, and especially city clerks, with probably their most important responsibility— conducting elections. 

For more on election procedures, see Chapter 5 of the Handbook for Minnesota Cities. And thanks to all you election judges out there. 

Written by Jeanette Behr, research manager with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1228.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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