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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The expense of elections

Friday, March 5, 2010

The MicroVote voting machines, organized by precinct, are currently secured and stored away in the Clay County Courthouse waiting for the software to be updated in anticipation of the May 4 Primary Election. Jason Jacobs Photo. [Order this photo]
Running an election is not a cheap process.

Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court Vickie Wheeler recently sat down with The Brazil Times to discuss the cost of running an election.

"There is a lot of work and elements involved in conducting an election," Wheeler said.

For Primary Election Day alone this year, Wheeler said it would cost approximately $21,130.

"That includes the pay for the precinct workers, various boards, helpers, meals and the cost to rent the buildings as poll locations," she said, adding the total cost does not include what is needed for advertising the candidate list, public test and other state requirements.

According to Wheeler, there are numerous individuals involved in the Election Day process.

"At each of the county's 23 precincts there has to be a total of seven precinct workers," she said. "There is the inspector, two election sheriffs, two clerks and two judges."

Clay County Deputy Clerk Beth Mallinak said the inspector's political party affiliation is dependent on the number of votes cast within the county for Secretary of State during the previous General Election.

"This year, the inspector at each precinct must be a Republican because that is the party which cast the most votes for Secretary of State in 2008," Wheeler added. "But it varies by county, and some will have Democratic inspectors."

Other than the expenses for the workers on Election Day, the other major expense the county has to pay for is the voting machine software.

Vickie Wheeler
"To update the software for the MicroVote machines, it will cost about $9,500 this year," Wheeler said. "There are additional expenses for licensing and maintenance fees, but that big chunk includes them coming in to set it all up."

The voting machines were purchased from MicroVote General Corporation, Indianapolis, in 2004, which Wheeler said has saved the county money by no longer having to rent the machines for each election.

"The county still has the fees for maintenance and to update the software each election, but by owning the machines, it is less than it would be to constantly rent them. Plus, we were reimbursed for purchasing them," she said. "I am by no means a computer whiz, and with this being my first election to run as clerk, the people from MicroVote will set up the ballots so we can make sure everything is correct, and hopefully, I will be able to set it up on my own in upcoming years."

While this will be the first time Wheeler is in charge of running an election, she played a critical role in every election since 2000.

"I was the deputy clerk for eight years, and I was an election inspector for seven of them, with 2008 being an exception because I could not be an inspector as I was a candidate," Wheeler, who has also served as Posey 1 Precinct Committeeman, told The Brazil Times.

She added the cost to run Primary Election Day is the same for the General Election, and those two days alone, minus advertising costs, add up to approximately $42,260, which is nearly half of the $89,020 Clerk's Election budget for 2010.

"Although it is a bit pricey to run an election, Clay County's cost is relatively low compared to other counties," she said. "Counties, like Marion, which have many more precincts, the total expenses are much higher."

Wheeler told The Brazil Times one precinct has only two voting machines on Election Day, while all others have either three or four.

"We distribute the voting machines based on the size of the precinct," she said. "We also have some machines set up for handicapped use."

She admitted the county has not yet begun to hire poll workers, but will be doing so soon.

"There are various requirements to be a poll worker, one of which is being able to work a minimum of 5 a.m.-7 p.m., which is one hour before and after the polls open and close on Election Day," Wheeler said.

To express interest in being a poll worker for the Primary Election on Tuesday, May 4, contact the Clay County Election Office at 448-9023.

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