The Value of Your Vote, and the Cost to Your County

Early voting is a little more than a week away, and as officials prepare to tally votes, they're also counting cost.

For the most part, it doesn't change based on voter turnout, but every taxpayer pays for the election: the preparation and the execution.

"This is actually more than what we expected," said Brazos County Clerk Karen McQueen of absentee ballot requests. "We had to actually order a lot more ballot envelopes than we had planned."

It's a paper provider's dream when voters seem to want to participate. County officials estimate 3,000 absentee forms will be sent out. Each form comes with three envelopes, and with 500 envelopes going for $160, you're looking at a $2,800 bill -- or about a buck an absentee voter.

How about poll workers? For Election Day alone, Brazos County will need 213 for its 42 polling places. Each will work a 10-hour day at $8 an hour. Factor in paying those workers to get trained, and it's about a $21,000 bill for the county.

Again, that's just Election Day. More than 50 workers will help voters cast ballots in early voting. Each will work an average of 122 hours. After 80, they get paid overtime.

Interested in working? Contact the county clerk's office.

"We'll put you on a list, so if you want to work, call us," McQueen said. "Right now, I think we're OK, but there's always last minute dropouts."

Paying poll workers is the bulk of the county's cost each election, but the cost rises for delivery of equipment and renting some polling places. The ultimate goal, of course, is for more voters to turn out so the work in advance and during the election is worth it.

"We get frazzled and rushed trying to get everything done, but this is our right to vote, and we want people to vote," McQueen said.

In 2006, the state reports about 30,000 voters cast ballots in Brazos County, and county officials say that election cost them in the neighborhood of $60,000. In other words, it cost the county two dollars per vote cast.

The cost to the taxpayer doesn't change much if turnout rises, but the value certainly does.

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