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Taxpayers get the bill for primaries
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
Ever wondered who pays for primary elections? Taxpayers do.
Political parties do not pay for primaries. The state reimburses localities only for presidential primaries held every four years, according to an official with the state Board of Elections.
In all other primaries, the localities pick up the tab.
That means when voters go to the polls for the June 12 primary to select a Republican candidate to run for the U.S. Senate in November, “Henry County will pay 100 percent of the cost of this election, and it will cost close to $20,000,” said Henry County Registrar Elizabeth Stone.
Neither the party nor the state will pay any portion of that primary, Stone said.
She estimated that 1 percent of the county’s 35,934 registered voters will participate in the primary, based on the 1,111 who cast ballots in the March GOP presidential primary.
That election also cost “nearly $20,000,” Stone said.
The cost to taxpayers works out to a little more than $18 per vote, some of which will be reimbursed by the state.
Justin Riemer, deputy secretary for the State Board of Elections, said the state law “requires the commonwealth to reimburse localities for their expenses” in presidential primaries. Reimbursements usually cover about three-fourths of the cost, he said.
Localities “share the same pot of money” set aside to pay for the presidential primary, and the actual percentage of reimbursement will depend on statewide costs, according to Riemer and state law.
Riemer said the state is in process of reimbursing localities for the March primary now, but “I’d rather not say” at what rate. “It should be higher than three-fourths, though,” he said.
The state does not reimburse localities for the costs of general or presidential elections, he said.
Stone said the cost of the presidential election in November is anticipated to exceed $20,000 because “we probably will have more ballots to mail.”
Regardless of the cost, “the county will pay all of that as well, 100 percent,” she said.
“Small elections cost about the same amount as the large elections. We do the same procedures to put the election together,” meet the same requirements, file and submit the same reports and the like, she said.
Precincts that have more than one congressional district also drive up the costs of an election or a primary, Stone said.
She explained that in Henry County, the Mount Olivet and Dyers Store precincts and the absentee ballots are divided between 5th and 9th congressional districts.
The Mount Olivet precinct “is split pretty good,” between the two congressional districts, Stone said. The Dyers Store precinct has only four voters in the 9th District and the rest are in the 5th District, she added.
Henry County has 24 precincts, but when the split precincts are added in, “it’s almost like adding more precincts” because the same amount of work is required for both districts, Stone said.
Martinsville Registrar Cindy Barbour said 360 of Martinsville’s 9,145 registered voters participated in the March primary, which cost the city $9,166.12, or $25.46 per vote.
Barbour said the city has not received a state reimbursement yet.
She anticipates voter turnout will be about the same in the June 12 primary.
Barbour, who became the city registrar last fall, said she does not know the cost of the 2008 presidential election, but the city paid $10,838.30 for the general election in November.
Patrick County Registrar Susan Taylor said there were 12,122 registered voters in March, and 502 cast ballots.
Patrick County spent $8,147.70 on the March primary, she added.
The cost per vote cast in Patrick was $16.23.
Taylor said there are 12,128 registered voters for the June primary, and she expects a comparable number of voters as in March.
“I’m sure there will be probably” at least that many, Taylor said, “maybe a little more, maybe a little less.”
Today is the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail, according to registrars.
Four names will be on the ballot in the June 12 primary: Jamie L. Radtke, George F. Allen, R.G. “Bob” Marshall and E.W. Jackson. The winner will run against former Gov. Tim Kaine for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jim Webb, who is not seeking re-election.