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SPLOST votes cost taxpayers over $17 each

By Walter Geiger Lamar County voters, a few of them anyway, overwhelmingly approved the six-year extension of the one percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) March 21. The vote was 491-84. The total of 579 votes cast amounted to a voter turnout of 5.64%. SPLOST revenues are expected to be $9.4 million to be split among the county and its municipalities via a formula based on percentage of population. Elections superintendent Anita Reid and county commission chairman Charles Glass took a look at the costs for holding the election at the request of The Herald Gazette. A quick estimate revealed the election cost about $10,000 or $17.27 for each ballot cast. Those costs include $3,490 to pay 25 poll workers on election day and $1008.10 spent mailing, collecting and processing absentee ballots. The county sent out 113 absentee ballots at a cost of $8.92 per ballot. About half were returned. Running three weeks of advance voting cost $4,560. Only 190 voters took advantage of the early voting period, a cost of $24 per ballot cast. Other costs included pay for a certified election technician and legal advertising which are mandated by the state. ’I did not include Anita’s salary because we would have paid that without a special election. But, we could never get through one of these without her,’ Glass said. The elections board utilizes free inmate labor to set up and take down polling places. The state requires a minimum of three voting machines be in place at each. Lamar deputies provide security and courtesy escorts for poll workers on election day. ’What we should add to this is the hours of elections board members while they supported logic and accuracy testing, poll worker training, early voting and election day. Those efforts are beyond what they normally do in a month,’ Glass said. Glass, like many others, overestimated the turnout and sees the elections budget as a bare bones affair. ’I don’t know where we could save any money unless we got poll workers to volunteer their time. I can’t explain the low turnout. I expected it to be fairly low. I cut my first estimate in half after seeing the early voting turnout and I still overestimated it,’ the chairman concluded.

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