Voting the Old Way Costs Too Much Money
Recently, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote about how Washington County is bracing for an expensive election year. So are the 74 other counties in Arkansas. Elections in Arkansas are expensive – because we insist on voting the old-fashioned way – walking into a polling site and voting by machine. There are much cheaper ways to vote that also encourage more people to vote. (Read my August 4, 2019 blog post.)
As the article notes, the bulk of costs is for personnel—that’s generally the largest expense from any given election cycle. It costs a lot of money to staff polling places, and more to staff vote centers. Vote centers are more expensive because they remain open not only on Election Day, but also for the entire early voting cycle. While counties think that using voting centers, and thereby reducing voting locations, will save them money, this does not turn out to be true.
Burgeoning election costs aren’t just a problem for Washington County. It’s a problem for all counties and for the state as a whole. The State of Arkansas reimburses each county the costs associated with conducting all preferential primary elections, general primary elections, special primary elections, nonpartisan general elections, and statewide special elections. That’s state law (A.C.A. 7-4-101 (f)(11); 7-7-201(a)). But the cost of voting machines isn’t a reimbursable expense to the county, it is capitol outlay, and the machines will always need repair, replacement, and accrue storage fees. Those are costs the county will pay, and pay, and pay.
I believe it’s time we look for other solutions that give all eligible citizens their right to vote and quit throwing money away on expensive machines that don’t last. And make voting available to all voters, not just voters who have a car and are able to drive to a polling place. Let’s expand the option to Vote by Mail in Arkansas.
Susan Inman was Director of Elections for a former Arkansas Secretary of State, former member of the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, founder and first president of the Arkansas County Election Commissions Association. She has volunteered with the US Department of State as an international election observer, observing over a dozen elections in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.