It turns out, to no one at all’s surprise, that it’s a lot more expensive to put on an election during a pandemic than during normal times.
At the Thursday, March 18 Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners are slated to accept $419,640 in reimbursement funds from the state to cover added personnel and operating expenses that the Guilford County elections department incurred due to COVID-19.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said that equipping the department to prepare it for the November election took more resources than the $419,640 is covering. He said some of the costs are not contained in that amount because many of those costs have already been paid directly by the NC State Board of Elections – so there was no need for the county’s election department to be reimbursed for those funds.
Though the 2020 general election cost a lot more for the county than a normal election, Guilford County has been lucky that most of the costs are being reimbursed by federal COVID-19 relief money that’s passing through the hands of Guilford County government or the North Carolina General Assembly.
Collicutt said that holding an election in a pandemic requires a lot of things elections in the past haven’t – such as gloves, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and a separate pen for each voter. He said many of those supplies were provided by the state through the NC State Board of Elections. He added that the state’s election board was a big help in pulling off a successful election – though those safety measures did run up a bill.
“One big expense was the additional voting by mail,” Collicutt said.
He said the county sends out a paper ballot and a return envelope to each person who votes by mail and the mailing cost for each package is usually $1.10 or $1.20.
‘That’s an expensive way to vote,” Collicutt said, adding that, in addition to mailing and printing costs, that method requires extra staff time.
In a normal presidential election, Guilford County would have about 10,000 ballots come in by mail; however, in the last election, that number was roughly 50,000.