New unfunded state mandates for county election offices are increasing the taxpayer cost for the March 15 primary.
State election laws passed in 2014 such as extended polling place hours and same-day registration have increased Lake County’s primary costs by an estimated $1.5 million, which includes a one-time purchase of machines to print ballots on demand.
That is in addition to the estimated $1 million cost of a primary prior to the new mandates, according to Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff, “if you include all of the equipment, the systems, the additional staff, the additional printing.”
Wyckoff said the county also expects to incur overtime costs to staff additional locations and to cover longer hours.
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Overtime hours aren’t available in Will County, according to Chief Deputy Clerk Judy Wiedmeyer.
“We don’t have a budget line-item for that,” Wiedmeyer said, “so we have to give our staff comp time.”
Wiedmeyer estimated Will County already has exceeded $1 million in printing costs and training materials for employees and poll judges.
Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said additional costs for his office include having to be open the weekend before the election and on any holidays close to an election.
“That’s an expense to us of double time for an employee as well as court security,” Gray said. “So all those things add up over time.”
Gray said another major cost is printing the ballot books. Sangamon County is assessing how to manage the costs internally, he said.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten, the president of the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders, said each jurisdiction is handling the associated costs in different ways, but labor and printing cost increases are a common theme.
The Illinois State Board of Elections said the various mandates do not come with any reimbursement for county governments.