Elections will cost $2 million

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2005

After 10 elections in less than a year and a half, voters are getting tired of going to the polls. But not going to the polls is an extreme waste of money, considering that it costs taxpayers approximately $300,000 per election.

“That means we’re spending about $1 million for the three elections needed to fill the District 24 senate seat,” Perry County Probate Judge Donald Cook said. “But that’s what the law says so that’s what we’ll do.”

Cook said the expenditures will more than likely continue to pile up following the Jan. 25 election to fill the District 24 seat, vacated by Sen. Charles Steele after he resigned to take a position with the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition.

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“I have no doubt Bobby Singleton will win this election, (Rev. James) Carter really hasn’t done anything to promote himself in this area,” Cook said. “That means another three elections to fill Singleton’s seat.”

Not only will taxpayers spend that money to elect new representatives between terms, but Cook points out that these terms will expire in two years.

“There are only two years remaining on those seats. That’s $2 million to put someone in that seat for two years,” he said.

Cook said some of Alabama’s southern counties are facing the same problem because their senator died. However, he said, the nearly $2 million this area will spend on special elections this fiscal year could be avoided.

“I could solve this thing if I were in Montgomery,” Cook predicted. “I would pass legislation saying that if you just vacated your position you have to pay for (elections) yourself. That would stop some of them in their tracks.”

Cook said he understands an unpredictable, unavoidable situation like the death of a legislature, but he does not approve of legislators abandoning their positions before their term is up.

“That would make some of them think twice before they just decide they will resign and take another job because it makes more money or carries more prestige,” Cook said.

Cook said he believes taxpayers deserve better than to spend their money on unnecessary elections.

“They say we don’t have money for education, we don’t have money for health care or mental health, but we certainly have money for elections,” he said.

Marengo County Probate Judge Cindy Neilson did not seem as concerned about the cost.

“Most of the cost of the special election is borne by the state,” Neilson said. “The county may have to pay some expenses, but I think most of what the county pays is reimbursed by the state.”

Despite the burden to taxpayers across the area, turnout at the polls is predicted to be even less than in previous special elections.

“We had about 18 percent who voted absentee in the runoff Dec. 14 election, and about 12 percent went to the polls,” Cook said. “That’s less than 30 percent of registered voters.”

Cook said he expects even fewer to turn out for the Jan. 25 election that will determine who represents this area at the state level.

“This time I expect it to be a lot less. I predict about 25 percent of the voters to come out this time around, somewhere in that range,” he said.

That means that the voters of District 24 will be throwing away $225,000 by not exercising their right to vote.