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County Considering Vote By Mail

By Staff | Jul 31, 2015

With new fiscal expenditures needed in the coming year for voting equipment, the Pierce County Board of Commissioners – Mike Brossart, Michael Christenson, Rick Larson, Chairman Duane Johnston and David Migler – are looking at alternative ways to reduce costs while allowing access to voting. One of the ways they are looking at is a “Vote By Mail” alternative.

At this time there are 26 counties that use Vote By Mail: Adams, Benson, Bottineau, Burke, Cavalier, Foster, Grant, Griggs, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McHenry, Mcintosh, Mclean, Mercer, Nelson, Pembina, Ramsey, Ransom, Renville, Sargent, Sheridan, Steele, Towner, Trail and Walsh.

The cost for equipment is $11,000 per polling site and there are five polling sites where you can vote at this time. In addition five election workers are need at each site when there are elections: an inspector, a Democratic judge, a Republican judge and two clerks. The average cost for each election, including salaries, mileage and training, has been calculated at $836.27 per precinct.

The required equipment for an election station includes a Ml00 scanner, an Automark (accessibility device for those with disabilities), voting booths, table, chairs, supplies and extension cords. Furthermore, the equipment needs to be moved to the polling places, loaded and unloaded. In addition, all Pierce County workers are required to attend training before each election.

If you take into consideration all the people that voted in the 2014 general election and the cost to the county for that election, each vote that was cast cost the county $6.10. Then you consider that 25 percent of the people who did vote were absentee, allowing “Vote By Mail” is something that should be considered.

All counties will be updating their election equipment within the next two years, which will be added cost to the taxpayers. If the board decides to Vote By Mail, the county would only need to purchase four scanners instead of six and two Automarks instead of six. The county would still have a precinct open for anyone that chooses to vote on Election Day. The plan would be instead of having 37 Election workers, you would only have 12. There would be added costs for postage, which has been calculated to be a wash with expenses for election workers. The real savings at 2204 prices would be the $33,000 for the six less machines that would need to be purchased: four M100 scanner machines at a cost of $5,984.00 and two Automarks at a cost of $4,950.00. There an is expectation that the savings would be more with increased cost of the machines.

Voting By Mail seems to have some other benefits other than just cost. It could lower the percentage of people who intend to, but never get to the polls due to a bad day at work, illness, death in the family or other tragic event, including drama at home.

Another possible benefit is you don’t have to wait in line! Depending on how your precinct is set up, the line may move at a snail’s pace. If you are impatient or have somewhere to go you may just skip voting if there are people already waiting. Another facet of Voting By Mail that some people may find attractive is that one can vote in the comfort of his or her home, where he or she can fill out the ballot at his or her leisure.

VBM also allows you can take the time to research and discuss the issues with someone you trust. It also gives you the time you may need if there are resolutions or amendments on the ballot that you weren’t expecting. If that becomes the case, instead of guessing or skipping that section you will have the time to cast the vote you feel is in your best interest.

Enrollment doesn’t mean you forfeit going to the polls if you change your mind. Simply bring your absentee ballot to the precinct, where they will officially void it, allowing you to vote there. This is often misunderstood, but so long as you have the blank absentee ballot to hand in, you should have no problem voting!

Before the county decides whether to become the 27th county and counting in North Dakota to go to Vote By Mail, they want your input. To let them know how you feel or ask questions you can contact Karin Fursather at kfursath@nd.gov or 701-776-5225 Ext 2100. Or, feel free to contact The Pierce County Tribune at jtpelt@thepiercecountytribune.com. The County Board is looking to decide by the end of the year. Take the time and let your voices be heard.

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