Baldwin County officials, like many others across Georgia, are preparing for soaring election costs associated with the many changes set to come about in the state’s 2020 elections.
The subject was addressed under new business Tuesday night by members of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners.
Concerns were raised by Commissioner Sammy Hall after Baldwin County Elections Superintendent Todd A. Blackwell, who also serves as judge of the county’s Probate Court, appeared before commissioners during budget discussions Monday.
“There’s going to be significant changes in the voting process that we are going to be undergoing next year,” Hall told fellow commissioners and a captive audience. “We’re still going to vote the same way, but there’s going to be significant costs to the county. The Secretary of State is requiring us to have all new equipment, which is more equipment than we’ve had in the past.”
Hall said counties will be required to have a special screen, a printer, and that counties would also have to furnish its own specialized paper, ink, and tables.
“It’s going to be quite expensive, and with no help from the state,” Hall said. “I think if the state was going to require us to do that then they should help us with that.”
Hall pointed out that the ink cartridge cost about $130.
“And the paper for the paper ballot cost 13 cents apiece,” Hall said. “Thirteen cents is not a big number, but when you’re multiplying that by thousands, you know it does add up. And like I said, we’ve got to buy tables.”
Additional electrical outlets have to be installed in the county’s voting precincts, too, he added.
“We don’t have enough outlets currently in there to do that, so there’s going to be that cost, too,” Hall said.
He said all 159 counties across the state are confronted with the same dilemma - where to come up with the kind of funds needed for making the switch to the new election format.
Hall offered the following suggestion to fellow commissioners.
“I’d like to suggest that we write a letter to the Secretary of State, and copies to the governor expressing our concern,” Hall said.
He said the letter should address such things as if the state was going to request counties spend such an additional amount of money that they help the counties.
“Granted, it might fall on deaf ears, but at least I think we need to take a position,” Hall said.
Commission Chairman John H. Westmoreland said it currently cost the county about $30,000 to have an election.
“But with everything going on now, it’s going up to about $50,000,” Westmoreland said. “And we’ve got the possibility of six elections coming up in 2020. That’s quite a bit of money that we’re going to be spending.”
Commissioner Tommy French also shared some of his thoughts on the subject.
“Fifty thousand is an educated guess, because the average that those machines have almost tripled for they used to be,” French said, noting like Hall mentioned earlier that extra electrical outlets and panel boxes would have to be installed at precincts.
French said some of the county’s voting precincts don’t currently have enough electrical outlets, etc.
“It’s a daunting cost to be this late coming towards election dates to have to make all of those changes,” French said.
Westmoreland said Blackwell informed commissioners earlier this week that he has plans to show off the new voting machines and how they would work once all of the equipment arrives.