COVID-19 Factor Added $132,000 To Local Election, Administrator Says

Friday, August 21, 2020

Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said the COVID-19 factor added about $132,000 in costs to the recent election.

He said an equivalent election in 2018 cost $300,000, but this one was $431,925. He said he believes at least 95 percent of the overage was virus related.

He said virus concerns led to the office having to switch 12 polling places. Part of that was an edict from the area United Methodist Church bishop that restricted Methodist churches that had been used in the past. With each polling place that was changed, the office had to mail notices to all the registered voters in that precinct. That brought significant postage charges. 

He said some prior polling spots were not large enough to allow spreading out of voters and workers.

Mr. Steelman said extra expense included buying special voting supplies and personal protective equipment for poll workers.

He also said that there was an 800 percent increase in absentee voting compared to prior elections. Still, that category was just 15 percent of overall votes cast. About 51 percent of voters came on election day, while 34 percent voted early.

He said there was "a slight decline" in voting by personal appearance. 

The election official said 9,990 absentee ballots were sent out at the request of voters. About 8,000 were sent back in. He said a number were returned as invalid addresses. He said that often happens in a "mobile society." 

Mr. Steelman said 59 percent asked for Republican ballots and 36 percent Democrat. Five percent sought general ballots.

He said the state of Tennessee has allotted funds to election offices in each of the 95 counties from the CARES Act for virus-related cost reimbursement.

On another topic, Mr. Steelman said the new concept of mobile ballot printing is proving to be a way for the office to save money. He said in the past the office has had to pre-print a large number of ballots for each of the four early voting sites - just to make sure they never run out. Many of these pre-printed ballots wind up being thrown away.

He said with mobile ballot printing, when an early voting site begins to run low more can be printed on the spot. 

And he said the blank ballot sheets that were not used for mobile printing this election can be saved for future elections, including the upcoming one.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election will be Oct. 14-29.

 

 


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