5th District special election cost about $8.65 per vote

Published 7:20 am Friday, February 19, 2010

The cost of the special election and primary to elect Mike Ankeny to the 5th District seat of the Mower County Board of Commissioners was less than expected.

Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh estimated the election cost about $7,988.41. That amount includes things like the cost of ballots, labor costs and advertising. Groh had estimated the process to elect the new commissioner could have cost more than $8,600.

It cost $3,475 for labor time on the day of the special primary and special election. On each voting day, a total of about 10 election judges were scheduled throughout the day.

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“This is pretty expensive for such a short time,” Groh said.

“It’s an unplanned for expense, but we’ll make it work,” he added.

While Groh said it’s important for the county to save money, he said the costs of the special election were worthwhile costs of representative government.

“Basically, I look at the special election and special primary as a cost of doing business for government,” Groh said. “It’s the cost of maintaining the rights of the voters and fulfilling the wishes of the voters. It’s a cost of doing business, and a legitimate cost.”

At the same time, Groh said the turnout of the special election and special primary was disappointing. For the special primary, 382 people voted and 523 voted in the special election.

Only 923 total votes were cast in the special election and special primary, and Groh estimated the election cost $8.65 per vote. However, Groh estimated the 2008 general election cost roughly $6.17.

State statute dictates a vacancy be filled by special election if a seat becomes vacant more than a year from the end of seat’s term. The commissioners could have appointed someone to fill out the term if the seat became vacant within a year of the end of the term. The seat became vacant when Commissioner David Tollefson died Dec. 4. Groh said the board likely could have appointed someone had the seat become vacant in January.

However, Groh said citizens spoke with him stressing support for the elected process.

“They like the right to choose, and they don’t necessarily like the appointing process.

During the round table discussion county officials held with area legislators Rep. Jeanne Poppe, Rep. Robin Brown and State Sen. Dan Sparks, Groh recommended the state change the voting laws to be allowed to use one voting precinct for a special election.

The county decreased the costs of the special election by hand counting the ballots cast during the special election and special primary. The county also used some items from the city free of charge, Groh said. Groh was thankful for cooperation from school officials who helped organize the polling places at Austin High School and Southgate Elementary School.