Target 8: Calculating the value of each vote in November election

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COLUMBIA - Boone County saw about 35.8 percent of registered voters actually vote in the Nov. 4 mid-term election.

With the turnout lower than the Nov. 2012 and 2010 elections, KOMU 8 News' Target 8 team investigated how much each vote was worth in terms of cost to the county taxpayers for each vote cast.

In the November 2014 general election, 41,834 people voted out of 116,999 registered voters in Boone County. The election cost the county about $215,000.

Callaway County Clerk Denise Hubbard said she thinks if people realized how much it costs counties to hold an election they might be more inclined to vote.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said, "Our two biggest costs are ballot printing costs and our poll workers."

The infographics below shows how much it cost three mid-Missouri counties per ballot cast in the 2014, 2012 and 2010 November elections. (Read more.)

Noren said training poll workers, a significant cost, includes paying the workers for their labor on Election Day, and paying them for training prior to the election.

"Ballots, you need to setup a system where you treat them the same as bank would treat your money if you were moving it between various places," Noren said.

The number of ballots cast for Boone County, Cole County and Callaway County was down compared to the previous two November elections. (Read more.)

Hubbard and Noren said the Missouri U.S. Senate race in 2012 and 2010 contributed to greater voter turnout in their respective counties compared to 2014. The 2012 election was also a presidential election.

"Depending on what's on the ballot, if there are issues on the ballot that people are concerned about or are talking about we have a higher turnout," Hubbard said. "Presidential years there's going to be a higher turnout, and if it's a contested race you're going to have more people show up as well."

Noren said her main concern moving forward is how to replace federally mandated voting equipment required as of 2006.

"It's a train wreck waiting to happen," Noren said. "Everybody went out and bought this equipment over 2004 and 2006, and it's all going to be dying at about the same time."

Noren said the equipment issued by the federal government that needs replacement includes a touch screen audio ballot and scanners that count paper ballots.

"It's going to be a pretty pandemic experience once this stuff starts going out," Noren said. "It's going to happen because there is no money. I mean counties don't have any money to replace this. They didn't even have the money to buy it in the first place."

Hubbard agreed with Noren's concerns about the outdated technology issued in 2006.

"Everybody bought their machines at the same time when the federal laws changed, and it mandated that we have different equipment," Hubbard said. "The lifespan on those machines was, I think, about 10 years, and we're reaching that point to where we're all starting to wonder how we're going to pay for new equipment. You can't just replace part of it, you have to replace all of it at once."

Hubbard said it would cost Callaway County about $150,000 to replace the federally mandated election technology equipment.

The data used in this story was collected online from the Boone County Clerk, Cole County Clerk, and Callaway County Clerk.

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