Special election in August cost area township $28+ a ballot cast

Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jan Kelly, right, and Deputy Director Steve Harsman, said an Aug. 4 said the cost per ballot was high for a Clay Twp. Fire District levy, the only measure on August's special election ballot. LYNN HULSEY / STAFF
Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jan Kelly, right, and Deputy Director Steve Harsman, said an Aug. 4 said the cost per ballot was high for a Clay Twp. Fire District levy, the only measure on August's special election ballot. LYNN HULSEY / STAFF

The lone Aug. 4 special election measure in Montgomery County cost small Clay Twp. more than $10,000 — over $28 a ballot — making it among the county’s priciest elections on a cost-per-vote basis, according to elections officials.

Each ballot was “quite expensive,” said Steve Harsman, Montgomery County Board of Elections deputy director.

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Just 356 votes were cast on the Clay Twp. Fire District renewal levy by voters in Brookville, Clay Twp., and the villages of Verona and Phillipsburg. It passed 269-87.

Low turnout — just 5.7% of the 6,218 registered to vote — drove the cost per ballot up, said Jan Kelly, director of the elections board.

Costs to the Clay Twp. Board of Trustees, which put the issue on the ballot, could climb higher once election workers’ overtime is factored in and the final bill calculated, Kelly said.

“It was one of the higher-cost special elections to run at the Board of Elections,” she said. “When you have a low turnout like that, your cost per vote is going to be higher.”

A ballot during primary and general elections typically cost less but will fluctuate by election depending on turnout, Kelly said.

By law, the Board of Elections office in Dayton was open for early voting, yet only two people voted in person during normal business hours. No one showed up during the required extended weekday hours and over weekend hours before the election, Kelly said.

Board of Elections members certified the official results of the special election during a meeting Monday. The board also approved two provisional ballots, both cast in favor of the levy renewal.

The 2.5 mills continuing levy is expected to generate 434,512 annually and cost the homeowner of a $100,000 residence $76.56 annually, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

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According to Ohio code, any subdivision that puts an issue on the ballot at a time other than a general or primary election must pay the entire cost of the special election. A subdivision must also prepay at least 65% of the cost.

The Board of Elections estimated the election cost at $1,273 per each of the eight precincts, totaling $10,184, Harsman said. Clay Twp. has paid the board $6,848 to date, according to Brad Limbert, the township’s fiscal officer.

Clay Twp. Board of Trustees President Steven Woolf did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

Kelly said it would be a good idea to get rid of special elections, as some legislators have proposed, because they are a “hiccup” right when officials are preparing for more important elections.

Elections officials were able to use the four Aug. 4 polling locations in Clay Twp. as a test bed to see how things might run in November, Harsman said.

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He said poll workers adjusted to wearing face shield, masks and gloves and passed out pens to voters so they didn’t have to be re-sanitized.

“We got nothing but positive feedback from our poll workers, so we are encouraged that they’re going to feel comfortable going to the polls (in November),” he said.

The board is still making calls to past poll workers and recruiting to stave off a November shortage, Harsman said.

“I think in the next 10 days we’ll have a much better handle on where we’re at,” he said.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5. Early voting begins Oct. 6.

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