Request for comments on proposal to lower the cost per vote

Over the past three years, I have tried a number of tactics to increase voter turnout and lower the cost per vote.  Early on, I kept the office open until 6pm when we were still at the Administrative Office Building.  Very few voters took advantage of those extended hours.

In the run-up to the 2008 general election, I kept the office open from 8am-9pm M-F and 10am-9pm on Saturdays.  We had a good response, but our costs increased along with our cost per vote [see page 70].

If I encourage absentee voting via USPS mail, then I increase our cost per vote because the cost of mailed and return mail absentee ballots is about $3.00 per ballot excluding labor.  If you vote absentee in our office and avoid the postage, then our cost per absentee ballot is about $1.00 excluding labor.  If you vote on Election Day at the polls, then our cost per ballot is about 10 cents.

I am proposing to try something new for the primary election on June 8th.  On June 7th, the day before the election, I propose hiring a private firm to initiate robotic calls (robocalls) to phone numbers listed in our official Linn County voter registration database.  At present, we have about 90,000 phone numbers for the approximately 145,000 registered Linn County voters.  For less than 3 cents per call, we could remind the current owner of every phone number of the election on the next day.  The call would be 30 seconds or less.  Here’s the potential script for the robocall:

Hi, this is the Linn County Auditor and I am calling to remind you that on Tuesday, June 8th, the Republican and Democratic parties of Iowa will be holding a primary election to pick candidates for the November general election.  With few exceptions, every person 18 years of age or older is eligible to vote on June 8th; however, you must declare a party to vote in a primary election.  The polls will be open from 7am-9pm on Tuesday.  To confirm your polling place, go to or call 892-5300. 

To remove your phone number from this list, please call 892-5xxx.  If you have already voted absentee, then disregard this message.  This call paid for by the Linn County Auditor’s Office and authorized by Joel Miller, Auditor.

The preceding script is about 29 seconds.  If I had time, I would add:

Why am I calling you?  One of the criteria used to measure the efficiency of the Linn County Auditor is cost per vote.  Voting on Election Day reduces the cost per vote and increases our efficiency. 

What did this robocall cost?  Less than 3 cents. 

Why are you calling the No Party voters?  They are paying for the election and they have a right to vote in it if they choose to choose to register as Democrats or Republicans. 

Who cares about the cost per vote?  The Board of Supervisors (BOS) and the Office of Budget & Finance, who reports to the BOS and monitors the performance of each County department [see page 57].

Iowa’s County Auditors have conflicting objectives when it comes to elections.  We are asked to increase voter turnout and decrease the costs of elections.  Encouraging the public to vote at the polls on Election Day is one of the few ways we can accomplish both objectives simultaneously.

Again, I am asking you to comment on this proposal.  If you are going to comment, please do so now as I have to make a decision on whether to purchase the robocalls within the next week.  After all, the primary election is less than three weeks away.

2 comments on “Request for comments on proposal to lower the cost per vote

  1. May 19, 2010 arnolddj


    I personally despise Robo-calls. As soon as I hear it is a robo-call on the phone I hang up on it. A Robo-call tells me that the information being passed on really isn’t important or it would be a real person (even if calling from a phone bank).

    DJ Arnold

  2. May 19, 2010 jeremycobert

    i dont like robo-calls either. also it excludes most people who no longer have landlines.

    what public service announcements on TV,Radio and newprint ?

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