Columbia election last year cost $38.10 per vote

Published 3:53 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Columbia’s municipal election last November 7 cost the town $5,677, or $38.10 for each ballot counted.

Voter turnout was 36.5%; that is, 149 of the town’s 408 registered voters cast ballots for mayor and three aldermen’s seats between October 20 and November 7.

The board of aldermen appropriated $5,000 for the election in the budget adopted last June, and on February 5 the board transferred $677 from General Fund balance to Election expenditure to cover the shortfall.

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The Tyrrell County Board of Elections conducted the election on town’s behalf, and the itemized bill elections director Debbie Swain submitted totaled $5,676.78.

Ballot printing cost $79, coding and layout of the automatic vote-counting machine cost $1,809, required advertising cost $394, poll workers’ wages (for early voting and Election Day) were $520 and their mileage was $11.

Clerical work (87.75 hours) cost $657, Director’s hours (in excess of regular county-paid hours) was $1,191 and supplies (forms, training manuals, etc.) amounted to $140.

One absentee ballot was mailed out at a postage cost of 49 cents.

The county made no charge for the use of Tyrrell Hall as the town’s polling place.

The elections board gave the town credit for the $25 filing fees collected – $5 from each of the five candidates.

The elections board’s billing reflects the modified one-stop of Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and no Saturday voting, with the availability of absentee by mail, Swain explained. Hours reflect the combination of board meetings that are required on Tuesdays, training, pre-election setup, Election Day, hand/eye count and Canvass Day.

The State Board of Elections denied traditional paper ballots, and subsequent hand tallying, for the municipality due to a contested race, Swain stated.

Three candidates filed for the three expiring terms on the at-large board of aldermen, so no contests there.

Two candidates filed for mayor, and state law requires that voting machines be used in contested races.

Five towns conduct their own local elections, town manager Rhett White told the aldermen when presenting the bill for payment.