Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mail Ballot Elections

Our ballots for the two January 31 mail-ballot elections were taken to the post office yesterday and people began reporting that were received today.

Both of these elections are school-district elections.  Mail-ballot elections typically have a higher turnout that elections at the polls but are more costly, in part because of the higher participation.  In mail-ballot elections, the jurisdiction pays for the return postage.  In other elections, with advance voting by mail, the voters pay the return postage.

So, the higher the turnout, the greater the return, the higher the cost.

When I came in 2005, we had three mail-ballot elections in process.  Identity theft was a growing topic then and we had voters complain that their signatures on the envelopes were exposed, essentially, while coming back through the mail.

We worked to design an envelope that allowed for the signature to be covered by a flap that could be removed by our election workers, to verify signature, without yet opening the envelope.  We were pioneers in this regard, actually, and many communities use this method now.  Our envelopes offer ID protection, but are customized.

The envelopes have increased in price, however, to the point that in small quantities, the envelope alone is $2.  In the quantities for these elections, it's closer to $1, but it highlights the costs of elections.  A typical mail-ballot election costs between $2.50 and $3.00 per registered voter, and the envelope is the highest cost item. 

Not the ballot, not the workers to process, not the cost of publishing the notice, not even the postage going out, or the postage coming in, or the postage combined--instead, the envelope.