It’s Your Money: Election costs on the rise in the Grand Strand

Updated: Dec. 10, 2019 at 6:49 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - New machines and runoff elections cost municipalities in the Grand Strand thousands of dollars last month.

Most municipalities were responsible for running their own elections in November, but Horry County still provided supplies like voter lists, ballots, postage and machines for the municipalities.

November’s election put to use the new statewide voting machines and increased the cost for the local elections.

“With this new system, there is ballot cards involved. It’s going to run around 12 cents per person to vote based on that card because we have to purchase those,” said Sandy Martin, Horry County’ voter registration and elections director. “They’ll have to pay for their ballots. There is a lot more seals to this new equipment than there were with the old equipment, so they’ll be additional costs with seals.”

According to Martin’s estimates, Horry County spent around $17,000 on elections in the Grand Strand municipalities. This cost is one the individual towns and cities are responsible for paying back.

The last time the county billed the municipalities for local elections that total was $10,000 less, according to bills Martin provided.

Smaller municipalities like Aynor and Atlantic Beach only saw an increase in nearly $200 from the county.

However, Myrtle Beach’s election bill was $3,000 higher.

Part of the increase in Horry County’s expenses was due to the county taking over Surfside Beach’s election. The county provided the poll workers as well as supplies for the town’s initial and runoff election.

The new machines also required poll workers to be trained.

North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Pat Dowling said the city spent $2,600 to train 40 individuals. The expense accounted for a third of the city’s total election cost.

In addition to the new voting system, three municipalities also held run-off elections, increasing election expenses, in some cases by double.

In Myrtle Beach and Conway’s runoff election, voters decided on the final city council seat, while voters in Surfside Beach chose the next mayor.

Breakdown of the costs

Myrtle Beach increased it’s 2020 budget by $19,000 for the November election, but the actual cost exceeded this amount.

The city’s check register show poll workers for the initial election on Nov. 5 cost $10,209.

The city spent half the initial cost on poll workers for the runoff election, $4,960.

The city also spent $1,376 for poll workers’ meals for both elections.

Conway’s budget anticipated $11,000 in election and referendum costs, but the November elections exceeded that total.

The city spent close to $14,000 on both its initial and runoff election.

City spokesperson Taylor Newell explained the city paid for poll workers, food, ads in paper and consulting costs.

This cost is nearly double the amount the city budgeted for its last council election in 2017, according to its 2018 budget.

North Myrtle Beach’s budget for election expenses in its 2020 budget was only $200 greater than its 2018 budget.

The city spent $7,170 on poll managers, poll workers, and election commissioners, according to spokesperson Pat Dowling.

Martin said the city owed Horry County $1,937 for supplies provided.

North Myrtle Beach did not have a runoff election.

The town spent $5,320 on both of its November elections. The runoff election cost the town almost as much as its initial election.

Officials spent $500 on advertising fees.

The county runs the town’s election. Martin said half of the cost is for paying for poll workers.

This year’s election cost wasn’t significantly higher than the $4,500 the city estimated for election expenses in its 2018 budget.

Martin estimated the following expenses for the county’s service to other municipalities. Each municipality only had one election and would still be responsible for paying poll workers.

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