Guilford County seemed to come out pretty good recently after it had allocated $8 million to buy new voting machines and ended up spending closer to $2 million. However, as with most things in life, you pay now or you pay later, and, in the case of Guilford County elections, taxpayers will now be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for paper ballots, while, in the past, the county hasn’t had to spend a dime on them.

The State of North Carolina no longer certifies the type of electronic tabulation voting machines that Guilford County has used for years, but one thing those machines had going for them is that the county didn’t have a large recurring charge for paper ballots every time an election rolled around.

According to Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt, now the cost of ballots will vary from about $200,000 to $400,000 a year.

“Some of the variation is because of quantities,” Collicutt said, “but also the size of the ballot paper – for example, a 14-inch versus 17-inch ballot, single versus double-sided, and ballot variations, things like that.”

Collicutt just got a small raise – three percent – but, if there were any justice in the world, based on the logistical mess that paper ballots will bring to his elections office, he should have gotten a much larger pay increase. Part of the issue is that the ballots, of course, are different in different parts of the county. When the ballots are electronic, it’s just a matter of altering configurations; however, when ballots are paper, that means printing up distinct ballots for each part of the county.

Also, each election, Guilford County will have to purchase many more ballots than will actually be used – elections officials must have enough ballots for everyone to vote in every part of the county even though in some elections only a very small number of people actually vote.