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Tri-State counties digging deep to prepare for most expensive election ever in November

Posted at 10:10 PM, Jul 28, 2020

With the most expensive election ever expected this November, officials are already scrambling, spending thousands on PPE and ink to print ballots while wondering how Tri-State counties will afford it.

As it turns out, they have no choice.

By law, Ohio county treasuries pay what's proper for elections, and come November, election boards want more than a little extra.

"We're thinking around $275,000," said Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections.

Sleeth is part of Ohio’s Ready For November Task Force.

"There's not a lot of areas to save for this election," Sleeve said.

New York University's non-partisan Brennan Center estimates presidential elections will cost Americans $4 billion.

Unsure how many people will vote by mail or in-person, Sleeth needs extra staff, tools to deep-clean equipment and extra ballots. He spent $15,000 on toner and has rooms loaded with hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, face shields and masks.

"We have to be fully prepared and we have to do it now,” Sleethß said. “We can't wait until the last minute because you have 88 counties trying to basically get the same type of supplies."

Clermont County needs $400,000. Federal grants through the CARES and Americans with Disabilities Acts pay half.

"Well, we will make it work,” said Julia Carney, Clermont County Board of Elections director.

Carney's staff gets so many calls about registration and getting ballots that her staff will soon work after-hours shifts.

"That extra time without the phones gives us some time that we can do data entry and stuffing envelopes and things like that," Carney said.

In Kenton County, Kentucky, Gabrielle Summe is looking for ways to trim costs.

"I'm asking the state to do a couple things: one, take away some of the precinct distinctions," said Summe, the county clerk.

"That's going to be a much easier flow for me: less poll workers, one check-in, one set of machines."

Ryan Salzman, an NKU associate professor of political science and a member Bellevue City Council, has a unique perspective.

"As someone who studies government and someone who is an elected official myself, I think that we're just going to have to take an approach of ‘Do what you can, send the invoices out and we'll figure it out on the back end,’" Salzman said.

The Warren County elections board is planning for a 75% voter turnout and, if anything, they hope to overspend on supplies.

Sleeth thinks that could help next year's budget.