Monday, Jun 27, 2016
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Politics

Lucas County election costs surpass board's '08 budget by $1M

The demands of complying with new requirements for last year's presidential election helped push the Lucas County Board of Elections over its budget by about $1 million.

The board was budgeted to spend $2.9 million in 2008, but spent $3.9 million, said Linda Howe, elections director, who distributed budget information during a meeting of the board yesterday.

The 2008 presidential election involved offering paper ballots to voters in addition to the touch-screen voting machines, buying more postage to handle a larger number of absentee ballots, and hiring workers to handle the flood of absentee ballots and signature petitions.

The county also staffed and equipped an off-site early voting center for the first time, at a cost of $60,000.

Postage amounted to $302,163, more than three times the $100,000 budgeted. Equipment expenditures more than doubled, from a budgeted amount of $50,000 to $112,688, in part to cover the cost of 32 leased scanners at $600 each.

Poll workers cost $528,570, compared with the $370,000 budgeted amount. A major budget buster was in hiring seasonal workers to scan and count ballots, which was budgeted at $150,000 but came in at $490,826.

"On Election Night we had 60 additional people scanning ballots," Ms. Howe said.

Jeremy Demagall, the deputy director, said about 25 people were hired to work in three shifts over a four days to verify signatures collected in Lucas County to meet a five-day window for statewide issues to be on the ballot.

"We had 26,000 signatures to look through. Everything we're doing is in the directives of what we're supposed to do to run the election," Mr. Demagall said.

Ms. Howe said her predecessor had requested a 2008 budget of $4.6 million.

During recent months, Ms. Howe said, her office had kept the Lucas County commissioners apprised of the mounting election bills.

The county has received reimbursement for some of its spending. Ms. Howe said the county received $139,160 in reimbursements for making polling places accessible, for postage, and for poll worker training.

And Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said Lucas County got $52,165 toward the county's expense in providing paper ballots as a backup to the electronic machines.

"Secretary of State Brunner is mindful of the financial burdens counties faced," Mr. Ortega said.

Michael Beazley, Lucas County administrator, said 2008 was an unusual year.

The county absorbed the higher-than-expected expenses for the election.

"Obviously the commissioners are aware that the laws and work associated with elections have changed over time, especially in a presidential cycle, and we continue to work with the Board of Elections to keep costs under control," Mr. Beazley said.

He said 2009 should be a lot less expensive.

There will be a countywide election in November, a primary election in Toledo Sept. 15, and a special election for school issues May 5.

The board's 2009 budget is $2.78 million.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

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