OUR VIEW

We might be living in a "free Democracy" but it sure isn't cheap. In North Fairfield, 27 people voted on a village levy, with the election costing $350 in poll workers alone and at least another $300 in additional costs for machine delivery, ballots and election advertising. That totals at least $24 per vote, with a voter turnout of just less than 10 percent.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

We might be living in a "free Democracy" but it sure isn't cheap.

In North Fairfield, 27 people voted on a village levy, with the election costing $350 in poll workers alone and at least another $300 in additional costs for machine delivery, ballots and election advertising. That totals at least $24 per vote, with a voter turnout of just less than 10 percent.

That's not to pick on North Fairfield, the Ohio township of Marysville had just 11 ballots cast with the election expected to cost at least $4,000 between training, poll workers and extra costs.

While Willard did see a whopping 14.5 percent voter turnout and Monroeville almost 33 percent, the costs to each are likely to be about $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

Whether these costs go back to a political subdivision, such as a school district or village, all depends on when an issue appears on the ballot. The reason these elections are so expensive is due to the fact that they are treated as "special elections."

For example, in May 2006, the New London school district had an issue on the ballot, but because it was an even year election the primary leading up to the gubernatorial election the charge to the school district was just $381, the cost of ballots and advertising.

So, at the behest of some county officials, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is examining whether a mail-only ballot should be permitted for special elections in order to drive down costs. Doing a mail-in ballot would eliminate, among other costs, machine delivery, poll worker pay and training.

While Huron County Board of Elections Director Tom Gerrity said the county has not investigated whether the cost of a mail-only election would be less than a special election, he said it would be nice to have the option. He also added other counties have studied the prices and said it would be much cheaper to run the special elections by mail.

It would behoove everyone for county boards of elections to be able to run the most cost effective elections possible.

It's true that districts could wait until even year elections to run their levies. However, some villages and schools need several attempts to convince a skeptical public.

In addition to the reduced costs, Gerrity said Oregon went to the mail-in ballot and saw voter participation levels jump something civic-minded people have been trying to do for years.

Such a change would have to happen through the Legislature, but a strong push from the Secretary of State's office would certainly get the ball rolling.