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Texas Dispatch: Estimating Total Election Costs

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Texas has a detailed statute obligating the Secretary of State to track the number of state elections and their administrative costs. But the statute cannot ensure that counties track data accurately. In 2009 and 2010, the costs of election administration in Texas were $21,350,530.58 and $11,002,371.69, respectively, based on county-level data.

The county-reported data, obtained from but not independently confirmed by the Secretary of State’s office, contained questionable numbers. In 2010, three counties did not report any costs and another three counties provided information that was implausible. For example, one county with a population of approximately 25,000 listed $8 as their total cost.

The county totals include costs for the following: poll workers, system programming, supplies, transporting voting equipment and temporary workers. They may also include expenditures such as polling place rental, mileage expenses for election judges and security costs. This statute could serve as a valuable tool for estimating election costs in Texas, but it depends greatly on the counties reporting data accurately. As with any dataset, there are challenges to overcome, but the existence of such data from a large state is promising.