Elections are expensive. And with money tight, election offices across the country are facing cutbacks. This means voters could be in for some surprises — such as longer lines and fewer voting options — when they turn out for next year’s primary and general elections.
A lot of decisions about the 2012 elections are being made today. How many voting machines are needed? Where should polling places be located? How many poll workers have to be hired?
Gail Pellerin, the county clerk in Santa Cruz, Calif., says she’s considering trimming the number of voting sites in her county by about 20 percent next year because her budget keeps shrinking. “Each year, they come back and say, ‘Do more with less, you know, we’re going to end up having to give you less again,'” she says, adding that her budget for extra workers at election time has also been reduced.
She says this means voters might have to travel farther to cast their ballots, and wait longer for help. Workers in her office also face mandatory furloughs.
Basically, we’re down to a critical level — sort of a bare-bones level — where if we saw any more cuts I think it would have a significant impact on our ability to provide services to counties.
– Chris Whitmire of the South Carolina Stat Election Commission
And Pellerin, who heads the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, says the state is no longer paying counties to send out absentee ballots or to process mail-in voter registration forms.
“So counties are having to decide whether they’re going to continue those programs independently of getting any state funding,” she says.
And if they do, they’ll have to figure out where they’ll get the money.
In South Carolina, the State Election Commission is also feeling the squeeze. In 2000, the office had a budget of over $2 million. Today, it’s making do with about $850,000 — a 60 percent cut, says spokesman Chris Whitmire.
“Basically, we’re down to a critical level — sort of a bare-bones level — where if we saw any more cuts I think it would have a significant impact on our ability to provide services to counties,” he says.
Those services include maintaining South Carolina’s statewide voter registration database.
Many election offices across the country face similar challenges next year, when a near-record voter turnout is expected.
Washington state has canceled its state-run presidential primaries to save $10 million. Other states have shortened the number of days for early voting. And many election offices are consolidating precincts, cutting out paper voting guides and encouraging people to cast their ballots by mail — all in an effort to save funds.
Full Article: Voters May Face Slower Lines In 2012 Elections : NPR.