(submitted by David Tom, our Elections Manager)
This economy has severely impacted local governments and we are being asked to do more with less. The demand for elections has increased as jurisdictions hold special elections to balance their budgets. There are three elections scheduled (May 5, May 19, and June 2), essentially an election every two weeks here in San Mateo County, and ALL of them ask voters to help solve budgetary woes.
Somebody once said, “Democracy isn’t cheap.” They were right. That means one of our ongoing challenges is to look for savings in the way we conduct elections as these savings are felt locally and at the state level.
We are taking deliberate and measured steps to help reduce the cost of elections now and into the near future by:
Consolidating precincts. We have consolidated 41 precincts in response to the increase popularity of permanent vote by mail. Forty-three percent of all registered voters in San Mateo County are permanent vote by mail voters. That means on election day, nearly half the voters in a precinct will not be showing up to vote. In many local and special elections, it’s far fewer. Case in point—only 6.9% of the registered voters in the April 2008 Special Congressional Vacancy Election cast ballots at the polls.
Despite the huge cost and waste, recent legislation proposed to factor in mail ballot voters to reformulate the number of register voters per precinct have failed time and time again.
Consolidating the number of precincts used in the November 2008 election from 555 to 514 (less 41 precincts) we can reduce the number of poll workers (164), voting machines (164), and supplies times 164. The savings = about $50,000 just for the May 19 election alone.
Cleaning the voter roll. By cleaning the roll, we have reduced the number of registered voters in the November 2008 election by 28,073. (We didn’t have time to do the voter file clean-up last year with five major overlapping elections. ) This will save about $26,000 in unnecessary printing and mailing of election materials and ballots for the May election alone. Blog previously here http://insideelections.shapethefuture.org/2009/03/24/voter-registration-clean-up-continues/.
Augmenting resources. We’ve also been successful in landing two grants through the federal Help America Vote Act for $142,500 and $51,772.80 to help us defray the cost of meeting federal and state accessibility standards in our polling places and improve access information.
These cost savings will continue through the November 2009 elections and beyond.