ShareThis Page
News

Voting reform pressed as money-saver for Butler County

| Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, 5:16 p.m.
Jim Spohn, election technician, sets up one of Butler County's voting machines, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. There are around 500 of the voting machines at the election office.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Jim Spohn, election technician, sets up one of Butler County's voting machines, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. There are around 500 of the voting machines at the election office.
Jim Spohn, election technician, sets up one of Butler County's voting machines, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. There are around 500 of the voting machines at the election office.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Jim Spohn, election technician, sets up one of Butler County's voting machines, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. There are around 500 of the voting machines at the election office.

The cost of voting in Butler County varies widely by precinct, and the county's elections director said she'd like the state to change the way elections are conducted to reduce expenses.

“We need election reform. It could make holding elections much cheaper than it is,” said Election Director Shari Brewer.

The county will likely spend about $222,000 to run 89 precincts for the Nov. 4 general election, about the same amount spent on the May primary.

Brewer said she wants the state to give counties the authority to consolidate precincts or allow people to vote anywhere in the county, rather than only in their home precincts.

Pennsylvania election law requires a polling place in every municipality.

In one precinct in Adams, the cost per voter in May's primary election was $5.23. In Cherry Valley, a borough with 40 registered voters, the 12 primary votes cast in May cost $189.91 per vote.

“I would like to use the figures to present to the taxpayers as a way to justify to them and to our lawmakers that laws on how we administrate elections needs to change,” Brewer said.

Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania does not permit voting before Election Day, voting by mail and “no excuse” absentee ballots. In Pennsylvania, voters must give a reason for needing an absentee ballot, such as being out of town.

“If laws were changed to permit no excuse absentee ballots, it would permit voters a wider time-frame to vote and the convenience of not having to drive to the polls,” Brewer said.

The Senate this year passed a bill to allow online voter registration, which Erik Arneson, a spokesman for the state Senate Republicans, says has been proven to save money and create more accurate voter lists.

The House did not take up that bill, he said.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Cranberry Republican and chairman of the House state government committee, did not return phone calls.

The earliest Pennsylvania's legislature could pass any bill is January, said Arneson.

Brewer expects turnout in the general election to be between 40 and 50 percent, a figure that is based on similar federal elections in non-presidential years.

Arneson said counties have latitude in determining voter precinct boundaries.

Legislators have discussed no excuse absentee ballots, Arneson said, but taken no action.

In Pennsylvania, a change would require amending the state Constitution.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me