November election to cost Travis County millions more than years past

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, file photo, a person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mail box in Omaha, Neb. U.S. Postal Service warnings that it can’t guarantee ballots sent by mail will arrive on time have put a spotlight on the narrow timeframes most states allow to request and return those ballots. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS (KXAN) Travis County Commissioners are expected to review the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year Thursday morning.

In that proposal, there’s a request from the Travis County Clerks office asking for additional funding for the November election.

“Presidential elections are the most expensive elections to run,” said Travis County Clerk, Dana DeBeauvoir. “We’ve been trending towards $2.1M for an election for several years now. With COVID though, we’ve been hit really hard.”

Travis County Clerk, Dana DeBeauvoir says this years election is expected to cost the county upwards of $6.9M.

“That’s to hire all the staff, a large contingent of that staff will be processing all of the by-mail ballots,” said Debeauvoir. “One of the lessons that we learned in July is that we need to stay ahead the Tsunami that’s coming from the by-mail ballots.”

DeBeauvoir has announced three drive-thru ballot drops in Downtown Austin near the courthouse.

“We love by-mail voting, because it makes sure voters get that last ditch of chance to vote, but by-mail voting isn’t friendly. It’s very tedious and time consuming, and it’s a completely manual process,” said DeBeauvoir.

On a normal year, about a dozen staff members would process the main-in ballots. This year, that number has nearly tripled. Drive-thru locations will also cost the county thousands of dollars more. Plus, the County Clerk plans to extend hours at the ‘mega sites’ for the last three days of early voting.

Thursday, County Commissioners are set to discuss the proposed election budget. The majority of the Commissioners, both Democrat and Republican, are on board with the proposal.

“You know that I’m the tightwad on the commissioners court, so it doesn’t please me. Sometimes though you have to spend the money, and voting is one of them,” said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.

Travis Commissioner Jeff Travillion says the county has asked DeBeauvoir to come up with a specific election plan, and she has done that.

“What she has delivered is a plan. A plan that lays out 4 or 5 aspects that the community has been concerned about. Number one, that they will have a safe place to vote. Number two, that we have tracking mechanisms to make sure their votes are counted. Number three, it creates a safeguard that people won’t vote more than once. We think that it covers the interest of both sides of the house,” said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion.

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