LISBON - A state plan to inform every Ohio voter they can cast their ballot by mail in the upcoming election could cost the Columbiana County Board of Elections an extra $30,000 it does not have.
Elections Board Director Adam Booth said Ohio's secretary of state will be mailing out absentee voting applications in early September to all six million-plus Buckeye State voters, and officials expect as many as 50 percent to choose this option.
For those who do, the elections board is responsible for mailing them the absentee ballot. If this 50 percent participation prediction holds true, it would cost the elections board about $32,000 based on 2008 voting levels. There were nearly 50,000 countians who voted in the 2008 presidential election, and Booth said the postage alone for mailing out an absentee ballot is $1.30 per envelope.
While Booth does not believe 25,000 county residents will chose the vote-by-mail option, he said it will still prove costly if the number who decide to do so doubles from November 2008 general election, when a record 7,851 absentee ballots were cast.
"Whatever happened to voting on election day?" asked board member David Johnson.
The additional expense comes at a time when county commissioners cut funding for nearly every county department budget by 5 percent due to an anticipated decline in revenue and rising expenses. The elections board was appropriated $546,000 this year - $30,000 less than 2011 - and Booth said they are already on track to run out of money by the Nov. 6 general election because presidential election years are more expensive.
At this past week's election board meeting, Booth announced he was going to consolidate two polling places in the Columbiana school district for the purpose of the Aug. 7 special election, which features a bond issue to renovate the Southside Middle School.
The Fairfield Township-West polling place, which votes at the Copeland Hills Golf Course, has 44 school district voters. Those voters will be instructed to vote at the Fairfield Township-North polling place at Phil's Sales & Service, which is located about a mile away. Booth said it makes no sense to go through the expense of opening a polling place for such a small number of voters.
Voters in Fairfield Township-West will be notified of the polling change via postcard, and Booth said it will be in effect only for the special election.
Finally, the board approved a petition from a Columbiana business to place a liquor option on the Nov. 6 ballot. Sun Breeze Tanning Salon, 601 N. Main St., is seeking voter permission to sell alcoholic beverages.
The board's next meeting is 5 p.m. Aug. 6.