Editor’s note: Tom Hand is chairman of the Bryan County Board of Elections.
He is writing a series of first-person articles on the mid-term elections.
We are now just 12 days away from the midterm elections on Nov. 8, and I think it’s important to discuss the cost of elections.
Bryan County has a permanent dedicated staff that makes all our elections happen.
They work behind the scenes to ensure that when voters show up at the polls on Election Day, they have a positive experience. It takes a significant financial commitment from county taxpayers to properly staff this department and provide all the resources needed to allow the staff to do their job. There are also incremental payroll costs for part-time workers to set up and man the polls each election. On Election Day, whether it be for a Presidential election or just a local referendum, Bryan County is required by state law to staff and operate all ten polling locations/precincts.
On Election Day, it takes about 3-5 people to operate each polling site and these dedicated citizens work 12-15 hours days. Despite relatively modest compensation, just the cost to properly staff one polling site is about $1,000, and we have 10 sites in Bryan County.
That means we spend about $10,000 to staff the polling sites on Election Day. And, if we have a runoff, as we are prone to do here in Georgia, we must also treat that like a regular election, and cover that cost.
We also offer Early In-Person Voting for state-wide and national races. In Bryan County, we operate two voting locations for these elections, and we operate them six days a week (yes, we are open on Saturdays) for three weeks. The total bill for poll workers to work the polls during Early Voting is about $1,500.
In addition to staff expenses, there are numerous other accessory costs related to running an election. These include legal fees for the seemingly endless disputes from certain groups ($7,000), mailing costs and postage for things such as Absentee Ballots ($8,000), and printing costs for ballots, as well as for public notices ($20,000). Mailed ballots are especially costly. Believe it or not, it costs $.84 to print a mailed ballot and we send about 1,000 each election.
The county also pays for election technical support to keep our voting machines functional and up to date ($21,000) and for travel and meal expenses to events such as annual conferences so our staff can stay current with state law ($14,500). We cover the cost of utilities and phones ($5,500), office supplies ($5,000), and annual dues ($1,500). We even budget $300 for pest control.
Keep in mind that these costs are essentially the same whether we have a local election when only 6% (2,000) of the county’s registered voters go to the polls or a Presidential election in which about 73% (22,000) of the registered voters in Bryan County vote.
Altogether, Bryan County’s leadership has budgeted just over $400,000 to provide county citizens a functioning election system. It seems a lot to spend, but it really is a small price to pay to help maintain our republic.
Thank you for your time and please remember to vote.