By Pat Maurer
The enormous cost of holding an additional nine days of voting before an election day could cost every township and city in the state thousands of dollars to implement. Consolidating the polls into one location at the County building may be the only answer for Clare County.
A combined total cost for the 2024 election cycle for townships and cities in Clare County is estimated at $133,528.50 in additional funds, (an average of nearly $7,500 each) according to statistics presented by Clare County Clerk Lori Mott.
Facing that, Mott made a presentation last week on ways of funding the required additional voting days prior to elections, a proposal approved by voters last November at the general election.
She said, “I have spoken with the City of Clare and Hayes Township Clerks. It will cost Clare (the City) [an additional] $6,320.50 to run the early voting for one election in a year and in Hayes Township [cost would be] $10,212.”
Speaking to the Commissioners at the County Committee of the Whole meeting on February 2nd, she said, “I have shared with you some of the changes we are facing regarding Proposal 22-2 and the election process. I’ve had three clerk meetings since its’ passing, and discussed the impact this change will have on townships and cities within our county with some of those clerks. In addition to having meetings, I have reached out via email to all the clerks in Clare County to see what their thoughts are, in case some have not been able to attend the meetings.”
She continued, “I created a small committee of local clerks to talk through the possible implications of this change and how we, as local and county elected officials, can make this work. I have a solution to this and a variety of different options to pay for the plan.”
Mott added, “Five of us sat down for several hours to discuss these changes and hash out what a county-wide election consolidation would look like.”
“If we do not consolidate,” she said, “then each township/city will have to plan, pay for and execute nine days of early voting individually.”
Mott said the main concerns she has and that of the committee are “election security, consistency for the voters and affordability.” She said the additional days of early voting will require “a great deal of planning, training and organization.
She said Clare County has 18 jurisdictions, 22 precincts and a combined total of 26,306 registered voters.” According to the 2021 census numbers there are 31,065 people in the County.
She listed the minimum requirements that the voter approved proposal includes: “All state and federal elections; nine consecutive days (including two weekends and ending on the Sunday before the election); eight hours a day; and at least three election inspectors per day.”
She told the Commissioners, “You may suggest requiring all 18 [township and city] clerks to work the early voting at the County in an effort to save money on election inspectors, however, a clerk may not work the election if they appear on the ballot, which could have an effect during some election cycles.
Mott said, “I believe we will have a lot of participation from our local clerks, but we cannot require them to work all nine days. … they still must do everything they were already doing, including being available, in their offices, the weekend before the election for absentee voters.” She said the township clerks also have to be available to register people to vote, which cannot be done while they are working as an election inspector. She added, “Many of our clerks work full-time jobs that would not allow them to take ten days off work. Some are retired and their clerk’s job is only part-time.”
“We must remember this job changed AFTER they were elected,” she added.
“If there was a county-wide [election] consolidation,” Mott said, “We (the County Clerk’s office) would need seven election inspectors on each day.” Elections require two inspectors of different political parties to: handle curbside voting (about 15 minutes for each voter); open tabulators to remove jams and empty the write-in bin; and to assist a voter that needs help voting.
She said three elections inspectors (the minimum required) couldn’t accommodate all the required functions or handle last minute emergencies or illnesses that would prevent a person from working on their assigned day.
In Mott’s proposal, the recommended seven inspectors would include six inspectors earning $15 per hour and one chairperson at a pay rate of $17 per hour for a nine-hour day that would include a half hour before and a half hour after the eight hours that the polls are open. Lunch (at an approximate $100 total daily cost) would be provided.
She said smaller counties are requesting the creations of an “election department” with two to three more employees. Mott said she could make the Clare County arrangement work with restructuring the department [again], redistributing duties to her staff and adding one additional employee.
Promoting one in-office employee to office manager and the addition of one full-time employee will cost the county an estimated $56,289.53.
In her breakdown, the 2024 election cycle in the individual townships and cities for one election would cost a combined total of $133,528.50. Handled by the County, the 2024 election cycle would cost $42,759.45, a savings of approximately $90,769.05.
A rough estimate of wages, training, lunches and mileage for nine days of early voting in each township/city would be $7,418.25.
A rough estimate for one county-wide consolidation election cost for 9 days of early voting would be $11,125.95.
For more than one election in a year the cost escalates. If there are three elections in a single year, the combined township/city cost would be approximately $400,585.50. The county cost for three consolidated elections in a year would be $89,442.35, a county-wide savings of $311,143.15.
Mott proposed a county cost to each township/city if there are no elections in that year would be $3,127.19; for one county-wide consolidated election (divided equally) the cost would be $3,745.29. For four elections in one year, the cost for each township/city would be $5,599.40.
In a second funding proposal based on population:
*each township or city’s annual fee to the county if there are no elections in that year would vary from $937.32 to $9,058.62;
*The county fee for one election during the year, for each city/township would vary from $1,123.47 to $10,857;
*Based on three elections held in the same year, the county fee would vary from $1,681.92 to $16,254.74.
The Committee of the Whole discussed Mott’s proposal at their meeting last week, but did not make a decision. Mott said, “It is my understanding that they will make a decision at the February meeting.”
The meeting will be held next Wednesday, February 15.