CHICAGO (CBS) — The record number of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election has also meant record postal costs.
Many election boards, including Chicago’s, pick up the tab for return postage. But as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, not all do – some leave voters to put a stamp on it.
A ballot folding machine may have cost the Kane County Clerk’s office $15,000. But Jack Cunningham said ultimately, it is helping save taxpayers way more than that on ballot mailing costs.
That is in part because of a little trick Cunningham discovered.
“Previously, we were folding them once,” he said.
That meant a cost of $1.60 per ballot to mail. But making a second fold cut postage down to just 44 cents a pop, Cunningham said.
He said the county saved about $160,000 to $200,000 altogether. That is a lot of money, especially considering Kane is one of many collar counties that does not require voters to pay postage.
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But three area counties – McHenry, Lake, and Kankakee – do require voters to pay the postage. State election officials say that costs about $1.40 per ballot.
“It was in the best interest financially,” said Lake County Clerk Robin O’Connor.
O’Connor said the presence of 21 ballot drop boxes is one reason for her decision. Fiscal priorities were another.
“So I felt the best thing we could do also is to use the money that we are allotted for the CARES Act to protect voters and our judges, providing PPE equipment and safety measures,” O’Connor said.
State data show Lake County got more than $831,000 from the federal CARES Act to help offset election costs. Illinois got $16.8 million in total.
Last spring, Illinois lawmakers also earmarked $6 million specifically for Election Day postage.
But Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said stamp or not, the law requires all ballots to be delivered.
“Every election authority is required to accept every ballot that’s delivered to it, regardless of whether postage is owed,” he said.
Ultimately, that means counties will have to pick up the tab for any unpaid postage.
So far, more than 2.3 million mail-in ballots have been requested in Illinois. The one-way postage costs – if all the ballots are mailed back – comes in to about $3.5 million.