Poll Tax: The High Cost of Voting

Put another nickel in the ballot box

If your conscience rears up in late June and reminds you that you forgot to vote this spring, you may be six times more guilty than you thought. It’s been a busier spring for elections than most people realize – and more expensive than it should have been.

In addition to the May Democratic and Republican primaries and the resultant June runoffs, there was the April Community College District board election (which attracted a whopping turnout of 9,000 voters) followed by the May runoffs for those DCCCD board positions. And don’t forget about the Kleberg annexation issue (most people did – that election stirred up some 7,000 concerned voters). When the June city bond election is concluded, Dallas voters will have been asked to go to the polls six times in barely two months. And the total cost for financing the revolving door polls this spring is around half a million dollars.

Even in low-turnout elections, the costs are high, inflated by expenses like the $95-per-day-per-school the Dallas Independent School District gets for the use of its facilities as voting sites. In the Kleberg election, for example, the DISD stuck the city for $14,000 just to open school doors to voters. The total tab for the Kleberg balloting came to $41,000, or $6 for each vote cast.

As the balloting expenses pile up faster than the votes, it becomes obvious that much could be achieved by consolidating elections. For one, a significant amount of public money could be saved. For another, voter turnout would likely be much higher if residents were asked to go to the polls only once. The only thing that might work better would be to pay each voter that $6 to vote.

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