Will County Clerk Lauren Staley-Ferry presented a report of last month’s consolidated municipal election, spelling out the work her staff did as well as the costs and challenges associated with it.
On Thursday, Staley-Ferry presented the report to members of the Will County Board.
“It really details the processes, the deployment of staffing and equipment, and the costs,” Staley-Ferry told board members. “It’s certainly meant to be as comprehensive and as transparent as possible.”
In a cover letter at the beginning of the report, Staley-Ferry acknowledged that the voter turnout of 13.16% for the municipal elections was “disappointing.” But she added that her staff still had to proof 334 distinct ballot styles for local races compared with 101 styles used for the 2018 general election.
The bulk of the 13-page report outlined processes such as voter registration, the staffing of polling places, sending out voter information guides, conducting early voting and recruiting election judges, and the specific costs associated with each category.
For example, the 427,015 preprinted ballots the clerk’s office had to issue for voters at the polls on Election Day cost $119,564.20. In addition, her staff had to print 15,029 blank ballots to be used on demand at the clerk’s office and 20 other early voting sites. Those cost an additional $5,260.15.
Staley-Ferry outlined some challenges with printing out so many ballots. Her office is required by state law to print 10% more ballots than there are registered voters in the county, which leads to a lot of wasted ballots, especially for an election with such a low voter turnout.
Several county board members questioned Staley-Ferry about how to minimize the cost, while other cautioned that the clerk’s office is restricted by state law in many respects.
There was a lengthy discussion about encouraging more registered voters to vote by mail, which might reduce staffing at early voting sites and polling places around the county.
“If we’re talking about saving money, [vote-by-mail] is really where a huge cost saving is,” said Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet. “And the positive side of that is that you would have a much higher voter turnout.”
Staley-Ferry said her office has been focused on outreach and voter education efforts. They have published information on their website, social media platforms and through local news reporting.