By Tia Lynn Ivey
The City of Madison is wary of new state election bills currently under consideration that could increase costs for city and counties to run elections.
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman and Councilman Eric Joyce sent a joint letter to Clerk of the State House William Reilly and Secretary of the State Senate David Cook requesting a “fiscal note,” which would provide an objective estimate of a bill’s fiscal impact for the city of Madison.
“As Mayor and Council Member for the City of Madison, a local political subdivision, I am requesting a copy of the Fiscal Note for HB531, SB202, and SB241..The bills include a number of provisions that potentially increase the local costs of conducting elections,” wrote Perriman and Joyce.
The letter comes on the heels of the Morgan County Board of Election and Registration adding $13,000 to the FY 2022 budget to account for extended warranty costs for the county’s new BDM voting equipment, which was previously paid for by the state. The BOER approved the measure at its last regular meeting on Thursday, March 18.
This development troubled Perriman and Joyce, who fear that the new election bills would result in more costly requirements for local municipalities.
“During the 2019 hearings on HB 316 (authorizing the Dominion BMD voting system), and contrary to testimony, legislative leaders insisted there was no local impact that would trigger a Local Fiscal Note,” wrote Perriman and Joyce. “Yet, county election budgets have collectively endured millions in unanticipated new costs to accommodate the increased number of electronic devices, including electric upgrades in polling places, plus the costs to store, test, transport, and operate the devices. In FY 21-22, we are incurring additional expenses for extended warranties and for technical support. Additionally, with the new paper ballot system, our printing costs have soared. Clearly these costs could have been anticipated and should have triggered a Fiscal Note. Therefore, I wish to review the fiscal note for HB531 and SB202 to evaluate the impacts on our local budgets prior to a vote being taken on the floors of the House and Senate.”
Perriman and Joyce listed several areas in which they believe election costs will increase under the new election bills, including requiring special security paper for all ballots, prohibiting private grants to be used, adding a second mandatory Saturday for early voting, effectively requiring mailed-in ballots to be issued concurrently with Logic and Accuracy Testing, requiring drop boxes to be under human surveillance at all times, and requiring manual sorting and storing of all absentee ballots to by precinct. Other areas of cost concern include a “state-appointed” temporary election superintendent with unlimited discretionary spending authority, new regulations to validate mail absentee voters, which could increase processing time and the number of ballots that will be handled more than once, and the authorization of unlimited voter challenges.
This is a developing story. For more in depth coverage, do not miss the April 1 edition of the Morgan County Citizen.