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September 25, 2013

Roseville consolidates voting precincts to save money

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

ROSEVILLE — Some voters in Roseville may find themselves in new voting locations this November, following a bid by the city Clerk’s Office to combine precincts.

The Roseville City Council unanimously approved the precinct consolidation in a special meeting Aug. 20, following a recommendation from the city’s Election Commission.

“The city clerk (Richard Steenland) came to me, and he suggested that we do that, and that he could save some money,” Mayor John Chirkun said. “The council, they agreed with him — you know, anything that we can do to save some money for the residents.”

Steenland said the consolidation is primarily a money-saving move. He said the city spent approximately $41,000 for the 2012 presidential election, and he believes he will be able to save between $6,000 and $10,000 for each future election.

“We’re able to provide the same service with less cost to the public,” Steenland said.

Since each precinct needs a mandated number of election workers and voting booths, the city can reduce the amount of equipment to maintain and program, and either reduce election workers or move them to other precincts during larger elections to help speed things along, he said.

“We spent $22,813 on election workers for the last presidential election,” Steenland said. “In comparison, this (upcoming) election, we will be spending $12,450. A city election is smaller, as we have two extra workers per precinct in presidential elections, but that’s a $10,000 savings just on election workers alone.”

In all, the city has gone from 21 voting precincts to 15, Steenland said, and he believed the cost savings per election will offset the money he needed to send people new voter ID cards and information on their new precinct voting locations.

Some voting locations, like Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall 2358 and the Holy Innocents church, have been removed outright. Other precincts that shared voting locations, such as the two at the Roseville School Administration Building, have been combined.

Other voters will continue to vote in the same location but are receiving new voter ID cards because their precinct number changed, Steenland said.

Steenland said he was able to consolidate the districts as much as he did because of a change to Michigan’s voting law in August 2012. Under the original version of the law, each precinct could have a maximum of 2,999 registered voters in it, but the amended law allows municipal clerks to not count inactive voters — people who are registered, but have not voted in several elections.

“Let’s say we have two precincts with 1,500 voters each, which gives me 3,000 voters, but I’m only allowed 2,999 per precinct,” Steenland said. “Under the new law, I don’t have to consider those (voters) in precincts considered to be in the inactive voter file, so I can have 1,500 registered voters in a precinct, but I can eliminate, say, 100 from consideration (for being inactive), so now I have 2,900 voters, and am now under the threshold to combine them into two precincts.”

“We’ve been continuously looking for ways to save money, but unfortunately most election law changes don’t give many opportunities to save money,” Steenland said.

Chirkun said the Clerk’s Office has been able to find small ways to save some money — such as purchasing new voting machines with grant money instead of city funds — and added that Steenland is always looking for areas he can bring down costs.

Other considerations included the precinct sizes — Steenland said it was hard to justify spending all the money on a precinct of 900 voters when he could consolidate it with neighboring ones to equalize the sizes — and save time and money on Election Day, when he and the assistant clerk visit precincts to make sure everything is running smoothly.

The city also moved some voting locations to make them easier for disabled voters to reach. Steenland said one precinct, which voted in the Roseville City Council chambers, was moved to Erin Auditorium in the same building because it has more up-to-date accessibility and is a shorter distance from a parking lot.

He added that the city, with fewer precincts, will need to rent one truck instead of two to deliver voting booths, and his office is looking into selling the now-excess voting machines to other municipalities.

Steenland said the new precinct voting locations are listed both on the city’s website — www.ci.roseville.mi.us — and the city cable channel. Paper copies are also available at the Clerk’s Office. While the final precinct maps have not been drawn yet, Steenland said a hand-drawn copy is available at the Clerk’s Office, and the official version will be on the website once completed.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.