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story.lead_photo.caption Joe Batlle, Washington County Election Official Supervisor, adjusts the location of ballot marking device kiosks Monday at the Main Street Baptist Voting Center in Farmington. - Photo by David Gottschalk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Officials say 2020 will be the largest, and most costly, election year in Washington County's history.

"The number of registered voters just keeps going up and up," Max Deitchler, a member of the Election Commission, said Friday during a discussion of the 2020 budget.

"The budget reflects our required responsibilities for the 2020 election, which will be the largest in the county's history," Deitchler said.

The commission approved a proposed 2020 budget of about $855,000.

In the 2016 election year, the most recent presidential election year, the commission budget was about $1.2 million, but that included about $580,000 for new voting equipment. The commission budget was about $678,000 for 2018, a nonpresidential election year.

Jennifer Price, election coordinator, said she anticipates the county will continue focusing on vote centers in 2020, with plans for an additional center to be added before the March 3 primary and nonpartisan judicial elections. The county had six vote centers in 2016 and added two in 2018, she said.

Price said the bulk of the 2020 budget -- about $663,000 -- would be in personnel costs. The commission voted Friday to ask for a $1 per hour raise for poll workers and 3% raises for the staff. Hourly pay for poll workers is $10.30 and was last increased in 2014.

Election Commission staff are part-time employees and weren't included in the 3% across-the-board raises for other employees in the 2019 budget, Price said. The proposed raises for the staff would cost the county about $10,000.

"The big part of the budget is poll-worker costs," Price said. "That's always an unknown. Since we don't know how many elections we'll have, or, if we'll have runoff elections, we have to budget for them. Then there's money for training the poll workers."

The Quorum Court's Finance and Budget Committee has a discussion of the 2020 budget on Tuesday's agenda. The justices of the peace asked work on the budget start in August because nine of the 15 justices will be participating in the budget process for the first time.

Renee Oelschlaeger, Election Commission chairman, and commissioner Bill Ackerman said the staff will be able to show the justices of the peace how costs have increased over time and how presidential election years are more costly than other years.

"We have no control over the costs," Ackerman said. "The Quorum Court has to be mindful of that."

Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said the justices of the peace will set a schedule for the budget process at a Finance Committee meeting Thursday.

NW News on 08/03/2019

Print Headline: Election officials see costs increasing

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