Limiting vote centers saves money

GREENFIELD — Limiting the number of vote centers on Election Day to serve only places with contested races saved taxpayers as much as $43,000 compared with the May primary, local election officials said.

Earlier this year, the county’s election board chose to hold a limited general election in which uncontested candidates for municipal offices didn’t appear on the ballot, meaning voters in some districts had no one to vote for at the polls Tuesday.

Only voters in Shirley and Fortville had a townwide election, and in Greenfield, only voters living in District 5 were able to cast a ballot.

In Greenfield, the city paid about $45,000 for the primary election, in which Mayor Chuck Fewell beat Judy Swift for the Republican nomination. At that time, all candidates who had filed to run appeared on the ballot, so voters were given the chance to support uncontested candidates by voting in their favor.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said the move to limit Tuesday’s election was fiscally responsible, though some voters expressed disappointment because they weren’t able to cast a ballot.

“I recognize that is kind of a catch 22,” she said. “People wanted to be able to go out and vote because they feel like they need to do their civic duty, and I appreciate that. … The board looked at what was truly best for the communities.”

Moore estimates Tuesday’s election will cost the city about $7,500, a savings of about $37,500 when compared with the $45,000 spent in May.

For the primary, a citywide election was already being conducted to choose a mayoral candidate, so listing the uncontested candidates didn’t significantly increase costs, she said.

By August, when no Democrat or minor party candidates filed to run against Fewell, there was no need for a citywide election; Fewell had already won the race, Moore said. The same was true for soon-to-be clerk-treasurer Lori Elmore, who ran unopposed all year.

Conducting a citywide election for voters to support candidates who already were elected would have added unnecessary costs, Moore said.

“Our job is to protect the people’s tax investments,” she said. “We want to run fair elections with nice equipment while putting less of a burden on the community. … That’s been the philosophy of my administration.”

Greenfield Clerk-Treasurer Larry Breese said the city council budgeted $75,000 to pay for the city election for the entire year, but the total will cost just less than $53,000 for both elections.

That means about $23,000 likely will move to the city’s cash-on-hand fund and could be put toward funding the 2017 budget, he said.

“We’re not allowed to make a profit. We’re not here to make money; we’re just here to provide the services,” Breese said. “Any revenue or savings we can obtain will help offset what’s needed for later.”

In Fortville, the May election cost about $8,500, and Tuesday’s cost an estimated $6,100, Moore said. McCordsville had an election in May, when Larry Longman and Dan Vail fought for the District 3 town council seat; that election cost nearly $5,000.

Tuesday’s election in Shirley for clerk-treasurer cost $2,115, but the town will pay $1,133 as the result of an agreement it made with the county.

Moore said conducting an election creates a variety of costs, including payment for poll workers, rent for the facilities used for vote centers, advertising, fuel for the truck that transports the machines and equipment that needs to be rented.

Cutting down on those costs when the county can is important, she said.

“In my thinking, being somewhat of a saver, I went the saving route,” she said.

By the numbers

Tuesday’s election cost the cities and towns about $14,700. In the spring, it cost about $58,500.

During the primary, 2,408 voters cast ballots. On Tuesday, 1,132 voted.

Greenfield spent about $45,000 in May. It’s expected to spend about $7,500 to cover the cost of Tuesday’s election.

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.