Early Voting May Add $35,000 to Cost of Elections, Door Says - The Missourian: Local News

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Early Voting May Add $35,000 to Cost of Elections, Door Says

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 2:00 pm | Updated: 3:02 pm, Thu Jul 17, 2014.

Franklin County Clerk Debbie Door estimates that a proposed six week-early voting period could add $35,000 to the cost of elections.

State voters are expected to decide Nov. 4 whether they want to pass the six-week early voting period for state and federal general elections, which occur once every two years.

The early voting period would not apply to April municipal and primary elections, according to the secretary state’s office.

Due to the increased costs, Door said she opposes the six-week early voting period.

It already costs between $140,000 and $160,000 to conduct an average election in Franklin County, and the six-week early voting period would add about $35,000 to that, Door estimates.

Door said she would have to pay four election judges to work throughout the six-week early voting period.

That would come to more than 260 hours for each election judge, Door said, adding that the judges would be paid $15 an hour.

She estimates that the total cost for just the additional election judges to work during the early voting period would be about $15,720.

Costs for voting supplies, mailings, advertising and security could add another $20,000, she said.

That does not take into account one-time expenses such as computer equipment that would have to be bought for the early voting period, Door added.

The county would have to cover the added cost of the early voting period, she said. It would have to come out of the county’s general fund, which, she said, does not have the money for that kind of expense.

She estimates that the six-week early voting period could bring in an average of about 900 people a week to her office to vote.

The five full-time election division employees in her office are already busy leading up to elections without having to deal with early voting, Door said.

They are doing voter registration, changing addresses, handling absentee ballots, training new election judges and keeping the voter rolls clean, she said.

Therefore, the additional election judges would have to be brought in to handle the early voting because the full-time staff is occupied with regular duties, she said. Door noted that she would need an equal number of election judges from each party to ensure equal representation.

Early Voting Times

The early voting period would start the sixth Tuesday before the election and go until the close of regular business hours the Monday before the election.

Early voting would take place in the county clerk’s office during regular business hours.

In addition, for 21 days immediately before the election, there would also be early voting on Saturday and Sunday for at least five hours.

On the Thursday before the election, early voting would have to be allowed during the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Debate

Giving people six weeks to vote increases access to the ballot box, supporters say.

But Door said she has viewed research that shows early voting does not improve turnout during elections.

In addition to the six-week early voting period, there also will be a shorter early voting period of six business days on the November ballot.

Door said that option is not ideal but it is a better solution than the proposed six-week period.

A good thing about the shorter option is that it allows the state to cover the costs, she said.

The six-week period does not provide for state funding, Door said, adding that it would create an unfunded mandate that could be challenged in court.

State Rep. Randy Dunn, D-Kansas City, a supporter of the longer early voting period, has called the six-day option a “sham” while the six-week period constitutes true early voting.

Matt Dameron has said the vast majority of election authorities will not incur significant additional costs from the six-week early voting period.

Dameron, Kansas City, was involved in the petition drive for the six-week early voting period. Most of the early voting would be during normal business hours when election authorities are open anyway, he has said.

If more than 30 other states have figured out how to offer early voting, Missouri can too, Dameron told The Missourian last month.

Door said she does not appreciate that statement, saying some of those other states appear to have developed their early voting methods through a legislative process.

The longer early voting period was the subject of a petition drive that is now under review. If the required number of signatures on the petition are verified, then it will go on the ballot.

The Legislature passed a bill to put the six-day option on the ballot.

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