OLATHE, Kan. — Increased voter turnout has resulted in more expensive elections in Johnson County, Kansas.
On Thursday, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) voted 5-1 to approve additional funds for the Johnson County Election Office, with Commissioner Jeff Meyers absent and Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara voting against the allocation.
The county will spend an additional $678,000 from the 2022 General Fund to cover increased costs related to the 2022 election cycle. The money will be used to cover expenses not originally included in the county’s 2022 budget.
Gayle Kauffman, with the budget and financial planning department, said the election budget was originally based on the number of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election cycle.
“We had far more voters than we did in the last election cycle. More voters means more election workers. More election workers and more operating expenses,” Kauffman said.
Kauffman said the additional costs can be attributed to multiple factors including:
- An increase in voter registration
- High turnout in the August primary
- An increase of election workers and needed training materials
- A 19-inch ballot required by the November General Election that prevented the use of pre-existing ballot stock and increased printing costs.
The Election Office also increased the number of advanced voting sites from seven to 16 for both the primary and general election. Assistant County Manager Joe Waters said the decision to increase the number of advanced voting sites was not discussed during the 2022 budget process.
During the August primary, voter turnout in Johnson County was approximately 256,000 compared to roughly 121,000 in 2018.
According to unofficial final results from the Election Office, Johnson County saw 56% voter turnout during the general election on Nov. 8, with approximately 259,638 ballots cast.
To meet demand, the county increased the number of election day poll workers from 1,700 to 1,800 and increased the number of advance poll workers from 175 to 475. On average, Johnson County election workers earn about $120 a day.
Shawnee resident Gary Morgan requested the board consider postponing the allocation to allow more time to review what the money would be spent on.
“I think we need to see detailed receipts of where these funds are going. I read the briefing sheet and I think there’s a lot of details the public needs to understand where two-thirds of a million dollars are going for these additional expenses,” Morgan said.
During Thursday’s meeting, O’Hara made a motion to table the discussion and allocation of funds until after the Thanksgiving holiday. That motion failed due to a lack of support from a majority of the board.