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Cost Savings

Benefits of Vote at Home

Several states and jurisdictions that have adopted vote-at-home have said the switch has resulted in serious cost savings. In Colorado, for example, costs decreased by an average of 40% after the state implemented its vote-at-home system because of the reduction in provisional ballots, polling locations, and poll workers. Similar results have been seen in other states. Oregon officials have concluded vote-at-home has reduced costs by a third to a half, and a 2011 cost estimate in Montana concluded vote-at-home would save the state approximately $2 million an election cycle.

According to a report issued by the Center for American Progress, it was estimated that voting lines in 2012 cost Americans $544 million in lost productivity and wages. As the report notes, “These burdens often fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income Americans. Black voters are, on average, forced to wait in line nearly twice as long as white voters. And long wait times can play a role in dissuading would-be voters from participating in future elections.”

With vote-at-home, there’s no need to travel to a designated location or wait in long lines.

An earlier study conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts examined expenditures in the 2010 election through surveying county clerks about election administration and operating costs. Researchers compared counties that conducted elections by mail and counties that used a hybrid of voting options, including polling places, early voting, and absentee voting. The study found that all-mail balloting would have lowered the 2010 average cost per voter by almost 19 percent, from $6.70 to $5.65. One reason for the cost savings may be a reduction in labor costs. Alan Wallis, the study’s lead author, explained that the single biggest cost of operating polling places is hiring and training temporary poll workers. Election clerks also frequently pay permanent employees overtime on Election Day. In contrast, voting-by-mail ballots arrive over a several-week period, and clerks can use their permanent, trained staff to manage the ballot processing.

Finally, The Federal Election Commission book “Innovations in Election Administration 11: All-Mail-Ballot Elections” discusses the advantages of mail balloting for election administrators well: No pollworkers includes: no recruitment; no notices to be sent; no classes to conduct; no distribu-tion and retrieval of election day supplies; no last-minute cancellations from workers who had agreed to serve; no paychecks to cut and mail; no W-2’s to send; no pre-dawn election-day hours to line up replacement workers. No polling places includes no polling place leases, tele-phones, utilities; no searching for or preparation of accessible locations; no frantic phone calls about locked doors; no preparation, set-up, tear-down, or emergency repairs of voting ma-chines or devices; no confusion about where people must go to vote.

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