Statewide referendum will be #8216;expensive#039;

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 4, 2007

Tuesday's statewide referendum will be expensive, regardless of the outcome.

If the projections of two veteran - and official — election onlookers are accurate, each vote to approve or disapprove constitutional amendments to increase the state's capital improvement borrowing cap and to protect future health care costs of retired state teachers and employees from being routed to other projects will cost approximately $8.72.

The per vote expense is, admittedly, a guess, but it is based on estimates by Janice McDonald, director of the elections division of the Secretary of State's office since 2005, and Bob Childree, state comptroller for the past 20 years.

McDonald, admitting she may be &#8220overly optimistic,” says a turnout of 10 percent is likely for an election that is &#8220pretty routine” and has only recently &#8220garnered some attention from newspaper articles, editorials and newsletters from associations like the RSA (Retirement Systems of Alabama) and the AEA (Alabama Education Association.”

Mathematically, that equates to 271,335 voters since, as of May 1, there are 2,713,345 registered voters on the state rolls.

Childree, suggesting several factors affect his &#8220guess,” estimates the election will cost in the neighborhood of $2,366,000. &#8220That may not be exact,” he said, &#8220but I believe it will be close.”

Do the math. Expense divided by voters equals $8.72 for each vote.

&#8220It isn't like the last amendment only election,” McDonald explained. &#8220That was Gov. (Bob) Riley's Amendment One tax package (Sept. 3, 2003) and it created a lot of emotion and activity.”

More than 1.2 million voters took part (55 percent of 2,332,807 registered voters) in that referendum, resoundingly rejecting the then-new governor's proposal 866,860 to 417,721.

&#8220I think the turnout will surprise some people this time,” she continued. &#8220Voters are aware of ThyssenKrupp (the new south Alabama steel plant that prompted a need for additional incentive funds) even if only because the legislature dilly-dallied so much on it.”

Childree said expenses in 67 counties for poll workers, machine setup and ballot printing are key costs in all elections.

&#8220Elections,” he explained, &#8220are the responsibility of the counties. If there are no local issues or amendments on the ballot, the state reimburses the county 100 percent. If there are local amendments or races, the state reimburses at the 50 percent rate.”

Greenville native Beth Chapman, elected secretary of state during the most recent state cycle after serving previously as state auditor, will return to the country today after attending a National Association Secretaries of State Association meeting in Taiwan and will oversee her first election as Alabama's chief election official.

&#8220Everything is under control,” McDonald said. &#8220This will be a good first-time trial for our office and we believe everything will go smoothly.”

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.