California Makes Election Cost Data Public, Identifies Savings Opportunities

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California election officials have a new resource for making cost comparisons across counties and new research that reveals opportunities for future cost savings. In April, the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) launched a website that features interactive data on election administration costs throughout the state. Forty-seven of the state’s 58 counties are participating in the voluntary project.

The interactive map includes data on salaries, services, and supplies and allows users to compare and analyze elections-related costs across counties and over time. Few states are able to conduct effective cost comparisons for their jurisdictions because of differences in reporting practices. As this project develops, California’s counties will have the opportunity to demonstrate national leadership in making election expenses transparent and accessible to policymakers and the public.

Additionally, a report last month by California Forward examined opportunities for state and local elections offices to leverage upgraded technology and procurement processes into new avenues for quantifying elections costs and justifying budget requests between counties and the state. From its analysis of nationwide elections practices, the report notes:

  • Most states across the country share their counties’ elections costs directly rather than relying on a reimbursement model.
  • Collaborative technology certification and procurement among counties, or through a statewide model, can reduce costs through economies of scale.

Opportunities for the study and improvement of elections-cost burdens within the Golden State will be discussed further during the upcoming CACEO meetings in July.

Heather Creek is the research officer and Keara Castaldo is a research associate for election initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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