The Price of Voting
Runoff comes with a cost
Due to the lack of a quorum at Monday’s Financial Services meeting, the Augusta Commission was unable to authorize funding for the general primary runoff scheduled for Tuesday, August 21, though funding the runoff is the least of Election Director Lynn Bailey’s worries.
“We’ll be fine,” she says. “We actually have money in our budget to carry us through the end of the year. That would include the November budget, so what we’ll do, I guess you could say, is borrow from those funds that are already allocated for the November budget and redistribute these funds when the funding is approved by the commission.”
The estimated cost of the runoff is $68,775.
Why so expensive?
“When we have a runoff such as this, every single polling place has to be open,” she says.
That means staffing each of the 50 polling locations across the city with a minimum of three poll workers — by law.
“In the bigger places we’ll put in a few more workers than that because if you’ve got the possibility of 4,000 or 5,000 people coming in to vote in a place, you need to be prepared to do that.”
For the general primary runoff, $45,000 is budgeted solely for poll workers, followed by $5,000 for printing absentee ballots, $4,000 for election night workers and delivery crews and nearly $4,000 for building rental.
“We use a lot of county recreation facilities, so we don’t have to pay rent for those,” she says. “But for the churches and for Augusta State University and Paine College and the places that we use, we do pay a nominal fee, generally $100 a day. And then we also have custodians that come into nearly every facility to make sure the room is set up and ready to receive the voting equipment and then break it down and get it ready for use by whoever’s coming into the room after we leave.”
Those custodians are paid $25 a day, while poll workers, who must be at least 16 years old and a resident of both Georgia and Richmond County, are paid a minimum of $120 a day, closer to $200 for managers.
Poll workers and managers often work 14- or 15-hour days.
Electronic voting machines have greatly simplified the process, Bailey says, while ensuring the accuracy of the voting.
Recounting the 12th Congressional District Republican primary required only a couple of hours.
“It’s basically a re-creation of what we do election night,” Bailey says. “During the recount, we know we have all the memory cards on site, so we don’t have to wait for the poll workers to bring them to us.”
Though Wright McLeod gained four votes from the entire district in the recount, none came from Richmond County.
“Any time you throw the paper ballot into the mix you always have a wildcard,” Bailey says. “Maybe a voter had put a checkmark in the little circle instead of coloring the bubble like they should. One scanner might pick that up as a vote while another might not.”
And while voter I.D. is an ideological hot potato, Bailey says it makes the process smother and more accurate.
“With that electronic poll book that we use in Georgia and now with the Georgia drivers license having the barcode on the back of it, we’re able to scan in that bar code, so that really alleviates the possibility of poll workers inadvertently selecting the wrong voter on that electronic poll book.”
As for the upcoming runoff, which will cost a little less than the primary because the workers have already been trained, Bailey says the poll workers will be up to speed on the party choice questions that aren’t always clear to voters.
Basically, anyone voting in the primary is required to vote in the same party’s runoff, Bailey says. Those who didn’t vote for either party in the primary are allowed to vote in either runoff.
Bailey expects a turnout of about 20 or 30 percent.You Might Also Like: