Vote or no vote, you’re paying for it
By Stephanie Lulay and Jenette Sturges email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2013 2:40PM
Election judges Holly Guzzardi and Ken Fields keep each other company at the Ward 9 poling place at The Wheatlands Elementary School in Aurora on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. As of noon only 4 people had voted. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Turnout in the primary elections in Aurora’s 4th and 9th wards and the Aurora Township Democrats election:
Election Number of Eligible Ballots Percentage
office precincts voters cast turnout
9th Ward 2 1,762 69 3.9
Aurora Twp. Dem 15 11,476 299 2.6
City of Aurora
4th Ward 10 7,843 958 12.2
City of Aurora
9th Ward 10 8,631 263 3
City of Aurora
Aurora Twp. Dem 58 44,842 1,916 4.3
Updated: April 6, 2013 6:05AM
How much did the DuPage Election Commission shell out to ensure residents of Aurora’s 9th Ward could cast ballots in last week’s primary?
An estimated $100 per vote.
In all, the commission hired election judges and had other expenses to serve a total of just 69 voters in the Feb. 26 primary election on the city’s far East Side, according to DuPage Election Commission Executive Director Bob Saar.
And while the DuPage County and Aurora election commissions and the Kane County clerk’s office haven’t tallied up the cost of the primary, it’s safe to say there will be a sizeable price tag for the elections in Aurora’s 9th and 4th wards and for Aurora Township Democrats.
To put on the primary, Saar paid four election judges $150 each, $50 to rent the polling place, movers, ballot printing, equipment testing and insurance for the two precincts the DuPage commission handled in the 9th Ward.
And then after the election, there’s a re-tabulation that’s mandated by the state.
“Those people also get paid for their time,” Saar said. “We haven’t finished calculating this stuff, but $100 per vote is very possible. Probably more than that.”
Totals aren’t in yet for how much was spent on the primary at the Aurora Election Commission. But the Election Commission had to staff 68 of its 73 possible precincts for 4th Ward, 9th Ward and Aurora Township races, said Executive Director Linda Fechner. Each precinct is staffed by between three to five election judges, she said. Election judges are paid about $140 depending of their certification.
By those numbers, at a minimum, the Election Commission will pay out more than $28,500 to primary day election judges.
Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham couldn’t offer exact figures for the cost of the primary election, but it was certainly tens of thousands of dollars, he said. Between the Aurora Township Democratic primary and a race in Elgin, voters served by the clerk’s office cast just 1,575 votes.
Election judges alone — five at each of the 77 precincts the clerk operated in the primary — cost more than $55,000.
In addition to election judges, the logistics add up, Cunningham said.
“We have to have the space, the equipment, it’s like we’re opening up 77 new businesses,” he said.
The county clerk’s office rents trucks to transport voting booths, and must pay for fuel and warehouse workers.
And then there’s early voting. In DuPage, Saar said the Election Commission spent $2,500 to set up staff in case someone came in to early vote — although not one person came in.
“[It doesn’t matter] if [voter turnout] is 2 percent or 88 percent, some of the costs are baked in,” he said.
Saar said he wasn’t surprised by the low voter turnout, or that no one pulled an absentee ballot or voted early in the DuPage portion of the 9th Ward.
“It was very limited in scope and it’s not uncommon to have extraordinarily low turnouts in situations like that,” he said.
In Aurora’s 9th Ward, less than 3 percent of registered voters turned out to vote in the primary. In the 4th Ward race, about 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots for a primary contender in the ward’s 10 precincts.
The low voter turnout means that Bill Donnell and either Mavis Bates or Jay Leonardi will sail onto the April ballot, vying to represent 19,900 constituents in the 4th Ward by each garnering less than 300 votes. By current Election Commission tallies, 247 ballots were cast for frontrunner Donnell; 202 for Bates and 194 for Leonardi.
In the 9th Ward, only top contender Edward Bugg had more than 100 votes. Bugg and candidate Marge Linnane cleared the primary for an April ballot spot, coming one step closer to a $17,700 per year salary and health insurance on the taxpayer’s dime as the ward’s part-time alderman.
Weather and the small number of races on ballots could have contributed to the low turnout, and voters could still be recovering from a long, fatiguing presidential race, Cunningham said.
But even Cunningham said that this primary was not a great use of tax dollars.
“It was too much for the amount of voters that cast votes,” he said. “It’s a shame voters wasted taxpayer money by not voting.”
Bates, who is also chairman of the Aurora Township Democrats, said it was an “extremely close” vote that decided the Democrats should hold a primary rather than a caucus for the first time. As chairman, she did not cast a vote to decide whether or not the party should hold a primary.
“I never thought [a primary] was a good idea,” Bates said. “When you look at the 2 percent voter turnout, I don’t know what that costs per vote, but we were very concerned about what this was going to cost taxpayers.”
Rather than hold a primary, Aurora Township Republicans slated candidates for the township ballot.
Fechner said 4th Ward voters won’t know who gets the second April ballot spot until March 12.
In a race that’s too close to call, Bates currently leads Leonardi by eight votes. But according to Fechner, 38 Aurora absentee ballots have not been returned. A total of 16 grace period and provisional ballots have also not been counted.
Aurora Board of Election Commissioners will count eligible absentee, grace period and provisional ballots at 3 p.m. March 12, at the Election Commission offices, 323 W. Galena Blvd.
Absentee ballots that were not postmarked before the Feb. 26 primary will not be counted, Fechner said. There is also the possibility that some absentee ballots that were requested were never sent in, she said.
Fechner said the commission is not providing anyone — the media, candidates or other interested parties — with a daily breakdown of ballots returned to the commission.