Smith County teenage poll worker unpaid for more than 2 months after election

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – 16-year-old Kairecia Morales Nichols spent Election Day 2020 working for 14 hours at the polls in Smith County. More than two months passed by, and despite her efforts she still didn’t receive payment.

It wasn’t until KETK called election officials inquiring about the situation that they paid Kai for her work.

Prior to the call, Kai and her family were calling and visiting offices and administrators for weeks looking for answers.

The election administration office insisted that Kai must have a bank account because they will only pay through direct deposit to a bank. Kai is a teenager and doesn’t have a bank account.

Her grandmother, Nancy Nichols, insists that Kai and all election workers should be paid in a timely manner by either check or direct deposit.

Commissioner Jeff Warr assured Kai he would take care of the problem.

At a Commissioners Court meeting Jan. 19, Nancy once again raised the issue.

“Now, it’s been more than two months and Kai has still not received payment for her honest day’s work,” Nancy said. “Kai is young. Kai is half-Mexican. It’s obvious you’re discriminating against her one way or another, so what’s the reason? Is it because she’s young or because she’s Hispanic?”

Nancy presented a list of what she wants:

  1. Kai’s check to be cut immediately. Call her grandfather, Chair Mike Nichols, to pick up the check.
  2. A written note of apology to Kai for the delay.
  3. A policy change that allows all election workers to be paid in a timely manner either by direct deposit or check.
  4. An internal meeting about communication improvements to reach out and assist young people and minorities to be involved in the election process.

“It appears the office works very hard at keeping young people from involvement with the election process,” Nancy said. “After more than two years of encouraging high schoolers over the age of 16 to work the election, one finally made it past the wall that keeps kids out.”

KETK reached out to Smith County officials in January, and Kai was paid shortly thereafter.

Kai also spoke about her experience.

“I think they were able to take advantage of a student worker like me not knowing specifically what to do, thinking that it had to be through direct deposit,” said Kai.

The teen also said adults will now see her differently after she spoke up for herself.

“I think they see that I’m not one to be taken advantage of and neither is any other student,” said Kai.

The assistant district attorney later released a statement saying in part,” Smith County takes every step to ensure that all payments are made in a timely fashion. The individual in question has received her payment.”

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