An elections reform bill passed by the General Assembly has drawn national attention for its shortening of early voting and Voter ID requirements. But little mention has been given to its impact on county coffers. A 15-page analysis by the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division says local election boards will spend $4 million statewide to hold an additional primary in early 2016 and $10.9 million to switch to paper ballots by 2018, as required under House Bill 589. Henderson County will spend around $500,000 to convert from its current touchscreen voting systems to optical scanners used to read paper ballots, special machines for the visually impaired and voting booths for privacy, elections officials estimate.
The state analysis didn’t include other costs that local governments will bear, including the cost of storing paper ballots securely for 22 months following each election and the added staffing costs associated with condensed early voting Henderson County Director of Elections Beverly Cunningham said the law — which requires the same hours of “onestop” voting from 17 days to be squeezed into 10 — will cost the county more in manpower to extend early voting hours, and will likely require opening another polling place.
“We’ve kind of looked already at that week that’s cut out and we saw about 12,000 voters in that time,” Cunningham said. “So our challenge is to figure out how to vote those 12,000 in seven fewer days. I don’t see the big problems in 2014. I see bigger problems in 2016, when you’ve got presidential and statewide races.”
Full Article: Election reforms will cost counties | BlueRidgeNow.com.