With special elections to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat fast approaching, Mercer County election officials received word yesterday that the state will reimburse their election expenses — but they are still trying to figure out how they will come up with the upfront costs of the balloting. “It looks like it’s going to cover the majority of the costs,” Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello said. “It’s a very good thing and I was pleased to see the letter.” Mercer County’s costs for a primary next month and the special election in October are expected to approach $1.2 million. A letter from the Department of State says the state will cover costs such as ballot printing, board worker salaries, overtime for county or municipal election office staff, polling place rentals and voting machine transportation.
Gov. Chris Christie announced plans for the Aug. 13 primary and Oct. 16 special election on June 4, the day after Sen. Frank Lautenburg died. The move was criticized by Democrats who said Christie should have scheduled the election to coincide with the November gubernatorial election, which would have saved millions of dollars. Statewide the estimated cost for the two polls is $24 million.
The decision to hold a special election came after county budgets had already been approved, so no money has been allocated, Sollami-Covello said.
“We have to find a way to come up with $1.2 million to pay for it,” she said. “I am going to be working with administration to figure out how that can be done so we can move forward.”