Voters in New Jersey primary elections could cast ballots by mail, a move that would save taxpayers money, according to a bill recently introduced by a North Jersey lawmaker. The bill sponsored by state Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, D-Maywood, would allow primary elections to be held by mail in any county where the governing body for the county approves of conducting the election in such a way. Eustace said 22 states already have rules in place to allow some elections to be conducted entirely by mail, and three states permit all elections to be conducted by mail. One of those states, Oregon, he said, has realized 30 percent savings on election costs.
The City Council voted Thursday to move ahead with Rancho Mirage’s first total mail-in election next spring. The decision, which was approved in principle during the budgeting process for this fiscal year, will save the city about $15,000, Rancho Mirage Clerk Cindy Scott said. April 10 is Election Day and the deadline by which ballots must be mailed in or dropped off at City Hall.
“Let’s give it a try,” Mayor Dana Hobart said just before the 5-0 council vote. The Riverside County Registrar of Voters’ office gave Scott cost estimates of $30,000 for an all-mail ballot versus $45,000 to run one with traditional polling places as well as mail-in ballots. Mailing ballots in has been the trend over the last two Rancho Mirage elections, Scott said, with almost 75 percent of votes in the April 2010 City Council election coming on a mailed ballot.
A total of 1,813 Pitkin County voters have cast ballots in this fall’s all mail-in election and turnout is on track to exceed prior off-year elections. The county issued a total of 10,720 ballots for this year’s election. That included a late addition of about 2,500 “inactive” voters, earlier this month, who were to be excluded, said elections manager Dwight Shellman.
The clerk’s office began receiving high volumes of ballots in the mail on Oct. 17. Wednesday was the most ballots the county had received yet in a single day so far, with 296, Shellman reported. Turnout is typically low in odd-numbered election years, like 2011, in which there are no state or national candidates on the ballot. Over the last decade, those contests have averaged about 3,200 ballots. Before ballots began coming in this year, Shellman said he was expecting between 3,500 and 4,500. “We would be over the moon if we hit the high end of that,” he said.