January 30, 2009

Merging Precincts into Voting Hubs

COUNTIES UP and down California are hurting for cash. Budgets are being cut and election departments are being asked to reduce expenses.

Cost cutting in elections is difficult because state and federal mandates have increased costs dramatically. Sure, you might trim some here and there but election costs are driven primarily by labor and printing expenses and significant cost savings would be most difficult, if not impossible. It takes a fixed number of printed sample ballots and a fixed number of poll workers to conduct an election.

But there is an idea that would maintain election integrity and continue physical polling place elections but at that same time save money. The idea is a move to "voting hubs."
A voting hub is a location, like a city hall, for instance - that opens seven days before the election for several hours a day. Voters then can vote over the course of several days and they can vote in person if they choose. The big difference is that there are no neighborhood polling places on election day - only the voting hubs.

Let's look at costs.

The poll worker costs for 500 precincts is approximately $225,000. Establishing 20 voting hubs that would be operational for seven days would cost approximately $100,000 assuming each voting hub had five staff members and was open for eight hours per day (each worker would be paid $18.00 per hour).

But other savings comes from the reduce amount paid for renting 500 polling places and the cost of recruiting and training 2,000 poll workers.

Total savings for using voting hubs could be as much as $250,000.

Colorado has used voting hubs in past elections and
Phoenix, Arizona is considering using voting hubs for the future. Perhaps it is time for California to try the voting hubs idea? Legislation could allow a couple of counties to pilot the idea and report back to the legislature. If successful, as measured by service to voters, election integrity and money saved, the idea could be abandoned or expanded.

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