I-Team 8

Counties feeling strain from cost of added requests for mail-in absentee ballots

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Monday afternoon, the Marion County Election Board sent out 40,000 mail-in absentee ballots, the first round in what its members believe will be more than 100,000 requests.

The cost to mail out each ballot is a fairly fixed price: 48 cents for postage, covering the cost to mail and get it back.

Across Indiana, nearly 250,000 people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election. The reason for the greater interest is the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson County Clerk Trena McLaughlin told News 8 that she is expecting 20,000 mail-in absentee ballots to leave the office.

“The postage is paid for out of the county commissioners’ budget so that all on them, and to mail out a ballot and for it to be returned is about $1.15. So, they are hoping that if we get some grant money from the state, that they will be able to utilize some of that, too,” McLaughlin said.

The printing costs vary from county to county. Hamilton County has received close to 25,000 applications for mail-in absentee ballots. The clerk told me her cost to produce the ballots and get them in the mail is $2.20 per ballot.

“I had to go back and ask for more money, so, no, it was not within the 2020 budget. I went back and asked for an additional $30,000. I’m keeping a running total as we spend it so I know, so I know if I need to go back and ask for more,” Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Williams said.

Hamilton County is expecting to send out from 60,000 to 70,000 mail-in absentee ballots for the general election. Prior to the pandemic, the Hamilton County clerk estimated the Nov. 3 election would cost the county $180,000. The No. 1 cost is manpower, and Hamilton County has added 26 temporary staff members just for early and absentee voting.

“Some of the people will work the 29 days of early voting as well as coming in these three weeks earlier. Not everyone is working every day. We do have several that are working between now and Nov. 2,” Williams said.

This cost of manpower varies from county to county. Hamilton County pays $100 a day while Hancock County starts at $10 an hour.

News 8 was told that most counties had not figured the total dollar amount per ballot with one exception: the Hendricks County clerk said her county spent right at $8 per vote for mail-in absentee ballots in the primary election.