The costs varied from a high of $1.6 million for a full VBM contest to $824,000 for a full precinct place election to $620,000 for one using two vote centers per ward.
I presume that the reason the estimated cost of full vote by mail is so high–contrary to some previous estimates–is that they print and send a ballot to every single registered voter, even though turnout is probably quite low in a special city council election (previous specials had turnout of 7-15%).
Estimating costs is complicated business. While I have not asked him, I am assuming that Suleman projected some level of turnout in a precinct place and vote center election in order to make his calculations.
Let’s suppose that he assumed 15%. The problem is that DC may also need to consider the “costs” of lowered turnout as a result of using traditional voting methods.
Past examples show that sending ballots to every registered voter can result in substantial increases in turnout in low profile, low interest contests. Turnout in the 2010 Colorado Senate primary, conducted fully by mail, was double the previous most comparable election. When Helena, MT began to conduct local elections by mail in 2007, turnout was 66%, double the 30 year average of 33% for off-year municipal contests.
I wonder what a precinct place or vote center election would cost if, for example, we estimated DC turnout at 30%? Would it be worth $1,000,000 to increase turnout to 30%? That may be one of the questions the DC council should ask.
Crossposted at earlyvoting.net