Primary election might be done with mail ballots
Mesa County elections officials are exploring the possibility of conducting this year’s primary election strictly by mail ballot, noting its popularity with voters and claiming it would save taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The county Clerk and Recorder’s Office convened a committee in August to study the proposal and will take public comments on it through Jan. 14.
Clerk and Recorder Janice Rich said her office plans to present the idea next month to the Mesa County Commission, which has the final say on how the election will be conducted.
State lawmakers passed a law last year allowing counties to opt to forgo early voting and in-person voting on the day of the primary in primary elections. The law was primarily designed to assist smaller counties that were absorbing a large financial hit by putting on full elections despite low turnout numbers in sparsely populated areas.
Rich said Mesa County and its voters also could benefit in several ways by moving to a mail election for the August primary, including cost savings and convenience for voters.
For example, she said 75 percent of county voters who cast ballots in the 2008 primary election did so via mail ballot.
Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Reiner said the county could save a lot of money through a mail-ballot primary election by not having to train and pay election judges or set up and program voting machines, among other expenditures that go into traditional Election Day procedures.
Rich said she doesn’t believe the county is getting sufficient return on the money and staffing it invests in primary elections as they’re held now. She said the county spent more than $700,000 to conduct the 2008 primary in which only roughly 15,000 people participated. She said she and elections staff figured the same election would have cost about $430,000 if it had been conducted by mail only.
A Citizens’ Election Review Committee met twice in August to examine the feasibility of a mail election. The 10-member committee, made up of two Democrats, two Republicans, three unaffiliated voters, two League of Women Voters members and one representative with the Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People, unanimously voted to support holding the primary election by mail.
The approach can be applied to primary elections, but state law prohibits it for general elections.