Election success cost an extra $17 per voter


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Joan Mazzolini

Plain Dealer Reporter


After the mess of the May primary in Cuyahoga County, where results were delayed for a week because of technological glitches, county commissioners opened their checkbook to make sure the general election would go well.


They spent an extra $8 million.


That's more than $17 for every voter who cast a ballot Tuesday.


Commissioners originally budgeted $1.9 million to run Tuesday's election, which ran much more smoothly than the May primary. They spent nearly $8.4 million. And that does not include $1.5 million for an extra 900 touch-screen voting machines, to ease lines at polling places, and carts to move the machines around.


"After the May primary, everyone was a little shell-shocked," Commissioner Jimmy Dimora said Wednesday. He said commissioners wanted to spend whatever was necessary to instill confidence in voters.


Another added cost was $1 million in postage the commissioners approved so that voters using absentee ballots would not be confused about how many stamps to put on their envelopes. The use of absentee voting hit record levels, in part because commissioners urged voters to avoid polling place problems by voting absentee. Printing all the extra absentee ballots cost $570,000 more than anticipated.


Yet another new expense was a $750,000 contract with Cuyahoga Community College to train poll workers. One of the biggest problems in May was that many workers were ill-prepared for using electronic voting, which went into use statewide this year. The total bill for training was about $1.5 million.


The result of that training was that just four polling locations opened late Tuesday, compared with May, when 100 were late in admitting voters.


Some of the other extra costs include $1.1 million to Diebold Elections Systems, maker of the county's voting machines, for extra help, and $323,000 for a phone system that allowed election officials to closely monitor what was happening at the county's 573 polling places.


Dimora said the success of the election proves the spending was worthwhile.


"I'm fine with that if it means people get acclimated to the new machines, but are we going to have to do this every year?" he said.


To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4563