The May 21 election in Ada County saw extremely low voter turnout, with only 5.4% of registered voters going to the polls. With low turnout, 7 Investigates looked at how much each vote was “worth” in terms of the cost to the county taxpayers for each vote cast. On the May ballot in Ada County were issues from funding the Eagle City Hall to electing the board of the Greater Auditorium District and Kuna schools. Overall, 9,457 people voted. “I would say the voter turn-out was lower than we anticipated. I thought it would be below 10% for this election because it was still a very small district election, but I thought it would be much closer to that 10% mark as opposed to down to 5% where we actually ended up,” Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane said.
The Ada County Elections office preliminarily tells KTVB the May election cost $149,452.71. That number will go up because figures have not yet been calculated for things like staff wages, postage, notification cards and poll book printing.
Using that cost and the number of voters who showed up at the polls, each vote is calculated to have cost $15.80. For context, the 2012 November election had such high turn out (184,000) that even with a total cost of $740,000, the county only spent $4.02 per vote.
Election officials note issues drive voters. For example, the November election included voting for the president. The May election included much lower-profile issues, garnering lower turnout.