Board of Elections asks for postage funds

Published 1:01 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

Please pass the postage money.

Lawrence County Board of Elections member Karen Matney Simmons and Board of Elections Director Cathy Overbeck asked the Lawrence County Commission Thursday night for money to pay for postage for daily operations and particularly for the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, a former elections staffer told the commission the elections office is failing to recoup money from the various townships and villages for special elections and levies, as is required by state law, and this money could be used to make ends meet in that office.

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Simmons told the commission postage is “a major financial concern” for the elections office because they anticipate mailing out 8,000 absentee ballots for the November general election.

The office will start mailing ballots Sept. 30. Simmons said it costs $1.17 to mail each absentee ballot. The voter is expected to pay for the postage to mail back his or her ballot, but if they don’t put enough stamps on the return envelope, each ballot has the potential to cost an additional $1. When the voter doesn’t use enough postage, the cost is borne by the elections office.

The county used to have a postage machine but it was eliminated as a cost saving measure.

Overbeck said to get discounts from the post office, there are minimum limits on the amount of mail being sent to a specific zip code. Simmons said if the elections office stockpiled mail to make the minimum requirements, it is likely staffers would also pile up some overtime hours.

“Let us look at it and see what we can do,” Commission President Doug Malone said. He said he thought the commission, in spite of its tight budget, could come up with an answer by next week.

“We’ll look at. No one wants Chris Matthews here saying we held up an election,” Commissioner Tanner Heaberlin said.

Simmons said she also needed bills paid for security surrounding the election.

After Overbeck and Simmons left, former elections deputy director Ella Lawless told the commission the elections office is no longer performing chargebacks.

Lawless said chargebacks, which in the past have amounted to more than $50,000 per election, have not been done since the board of elections fired former director Mary Wipert in February 2007.

“It may seem like nothing but every penny helps,” Lawless said.

Contacted Friday morning, Overbeck said the chargebcks are being done.

“The money that gets charged back is deducted from the entity’s next budget,” Overbeck said.

However, Lawrence County Deputy Auditor Greg Kline said they are not being done and have not been done since Wipert left. Kline said the board of elections can have the money taken out of the entity’s tax settlement but that is not being done.