It may not be as dramatic sounding as the media’s phrase, “War on Christmas,” or many of the other wars on societal issues, but as we prepare for more elections, we’re reminded of the constant war on polling places. Selecting polling places is a no-win endeavor. For instance, in April 2005, the election featured a question on same-sex marriage. I received several complaints from voters that some of our polling places were churches, potentially influencing the outcome of this vote. Then, in September 2005, we had a special election for a sales tax that was directed to schools. I received a similar number of complaints from voters that some of our polling places were schools, potentially influencing the outcome of this vote. We used the same polling places for both elections. Most of our polling places are donated space. That’s important because one thing I hear often from our county manager is how expensive elections are. They are expensive. But that expense is relevant if you are comparing the cost to zero. Merely having an election is expensive because it’s an event for, in our case, 360,000 people.
Consider that voting machines are a sunk cost, polling places are nearly free, election workers make minimum wage (if that) and that our most expensive part of the election is the bundle that comes as an advance ballot by mail (ballot printing, envelope printing, and postage). Of the 284 Polling Places used in the 2008 Presidential election, we spent $5,000 in rent because the majority of them were free. Of course, fewer polling places with more election workers squeezes efficiencies. Instead of having 500 polling places with 3 workers, we could have 300 with 5 workers–same number of workers, but less expense in transporting voting supplies, fewer overall supplies, and fewer machines needed.
Full Article: War on Polling Places | Election Diary.