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Counties spend significant sums on runoff elections

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RALEIGH – Big bucks go into conducting runoff elections. North Carolina counties will spend $5 million for Tuesday's runoff election. In the 2008 general election, county officials spent $15 million.

“Those who show up and participate have a larger voice in who their nominees are for the election,” Gary Bartlett, the executive director of the State Board of Elections, said.

Bartlett said the costs add up. Each ballot is 21 cents, ballot coding is $500,000, and the cost of manpower is more than a million.

While elections officials said they'd be happy with a turnout percentage in the double digits, they expect somewhere between two and five percent of the more than 4 million eligible voters to come out, which can mean wasted money.

“What many people don't realize, no matter what type of election, whether it's a second primary all the way up to a presidential, basically, everything is the same,” Cherie Poucher, the Wake County Board of Elections director, said. “Even though we can have less precinct officials in each precinct, it still costs Wake County probably close to, if not a little more than, $300,000.

Mecklenburg County Board of Election officials estimate the county will spend $325,000; Guilford County estimates $160,000; Forsyth County estimates $150,000; and New Hanover estimates $85,000 for the runoff election.

All 3,000 precincts will be open, but the driving cost is the manpower. A minimum of three election workers will be stationed at each precinct and each will earn between $90 and $135 Tuesday.

Bartlett said the General Assembly plans to take a look at how runoff elections are conducted, and changes could be made as early as the March 2012 primary election.

“One of the several things that the General Assembly is looking at is combining polling places,” Bartlett said.

Officials expect to have 9,000 election workers throughout the state Tuesday. During the 2008 general election, there were close to 24,000 workers.

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