Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker said his office has already received 47 completed ballots from the first-ever mail-in election in county history.
The small sewer district election affects only 134 residents who can participate in the only Franklin County election this November and never leave their homes.
Residents of the Sylvan Manor-Sunset Acres Sewer District near Catawissa are voting on a tax levy increase strictly by mail to address the pressing needs for repairs on the sewer system’s lagoons that can’t be put on hold until next April.
“We’ve already received about 30 percent of the ballots we mailed out,” Baker said Tuesday. “Honestly, I think we should get most of them returned since it affects so few people and it has been advertised on their sewer bills.”
Baker said he expects to see a large amount of ballots returning later this week and early next week.
“We will be open from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday if people want to hand deliver their ballots,” Baker said. “Our office will be open till 5 p.m. both Monday and Tuesday, and we will start opening ballots at 6 p.m.”
Baker added since the election is so small they will be able to certify the election Tuesday night.
Each of the 134 registered voters in the sewer district (Catawissa precinct) received voting packets around Oct. 8 that contained several documents.
“This will only affect between 50 and 60 homes in that subdivision,” Baker said. “There will be no cost to voters except for the ink it takes to mark the ballot.”
Baker said they have only received a few calls from residents with questions about the ballot and they were able to be answered easily.
“Our staff has to verify all of the signatures with the voters’ original registration signatures,” Baker said. “Then all of the ballots will be hand counted and the election will be certified the same evening.”
The entire election process will be handled in-house by the clerk’s office staff.
“If this works it will give us another tool in our toolbox,” Baker said. “If it’s a mess then we’ll scrap it.”
The increased tax levy needs only a simple majority to pass. If there is a tie, Baker is doubtful it will be decided by a coin toss and will most likely result in a runoff.
Baker said even if the mail-in election is a success, residents should not expect it to become the new normal for future elections.
“I still believe in the system of going to the polls on Election Day,” Baker said.
He added the mail-only election is ideal in this situation due to the extremely low number of voters involved and the painfully low turnout at the last election held in August that also revolved around a sewer district.
Only 6.3 percent of the total 1,272 registered voters in that particular area cast ballots during the special election Aug. 6, which cost between $7,000 and $8,000.
“If we only had a 6 percent turnout in this special election, it would be like seven votes,” Baker said. “I can’t justify a 16-hour day of the polls being open for that.”
In that election a two-thirds majority of less than 1,300 county voters were asked to allow Calvey Creek and Crestview Sewer districts to combine into one.
When all was said and done, only 81 overall votes were cast, with 50 voters in favor of the sewer district merger and 31 against it.
Baker explained the proposition fell just four votes shy. It needed 66.6 percent of the total votes to pass but received only 61.73 percent.
Both Jackson and Johnson counties in Missouri have executed mail-in elections successfully and were consulted by Franklin County.
Baker added there are seven states nationwide which hold mail-in elections regularly.