Vote centers to save city money
The city of Yuma's cost for the 2011 general election was an average $5,709 per polling site for a total of $34,740 for six sites.
With 719 voters casting their ballots at polling places on election day, that averages out to $48.30 per vote. One precinct had only 20 voters for a whopping estimate of $285.45 per vote.
With the general election again just a few months away, no doubt a presentation to the Yuma City Council about the new vote centers was welcome news.
The city will have one question on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election, when registered voters in the city will be asked to approve the 2012 General Plan. The updated plan serves as a guide to where Yuma wants to be, providing comprehensive direction for the growth and development of the city for the next 10 years.
As more and more voters opt for early mail-in ballots, fewer people are going to the polls on election day, Sue Reynolds, Yuma County elections officer, told the Yuma City Council during Tuesday's work session.
Voters have vastly shifted their preference, she said. In the last general election, 19 percent of city registered voters cast early ballots while only 2 percent went to the polls.
That shift continues, Reynolds said. In the February presidential preference election, 61 percent of the ballots cast were mail-in. And in last week's primary, 83 percent of ballots were cast by mail.
In an effort to hold down the cost of elections while being easier for voters, Yuma County implemented the vote center concept this year for the Feb. 28 presidential preference primary and the Aug. 28 primary election and will use it again for November's general election.
In previous elections, voters could vote only at their specified polling place. This sometimes resulted in people waiting in long lines, only to be told by an election official they were in the wrong location.
“With vote centers, there is ‘no wrong place to vote,'” Reynolds said. People can go to any one of the 11 vote centers. All voting data for every precinct is placed in e-poll books, and printers print out ballots on demand.
Reynolds said that with the adoption of vote centers, the Yuma County Election Services' annual budget has been reduced by nearly $50,000.
Less than half the election workers are needed as in the past, site costs have been reduced from 38 polling places to 11 vote centers. And rather than print out thick binders for each precinct, records are on the centralized database and only the ballots actually used by voters are printed.
Vote centers also are more convenient for voters and reduce wait times due to electronic check-ins. They also eliminate provisional ballots for voters in the “wrong” precinct that delay final election results.
Vote centers do not change the early voting process, Reynolds said. Early voting is a separate election function from vote centers and are billed separately by the Yuma County recorder.
As a follow-up to Reynolds' presentation, the council will be asked to approve poll workers for the vote centers during its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.