Minot aldermen are hesitant to slash the number of city polling places without more study.
At a meeting Tuesday, the Minot City Council's Finance and Improvements Committee sent a proposal to trim the number of polling centers from 17 to between one and four back to the liaison committee where it was introduced. The liaison committee, which consists of representatives of the Ward County Commission, city council, park board and school board, will determine what type of further study it wants to do. No changes in polling places would take place before 2012.
Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad told the finance committee that an advantage of fewer polls is fewer poll workers.
"Every year it gets harder and harder to find enough people to fill all of our precincts," she said.
The city's 17 voting sites have five poll workers per precinct.
The county spends $12,335 on manpower costs per election. Bringing the city into one polling location would cut manpower to 25 poll workers and save $8,707. The greatest cost savings, $8,852, would come from having two vote centers with a total of 24 poll workers. Having four vote centers, one in each quadrant of the city, would require 32 workers and save $7,691.
Each precinct still would exist with their own ballots, but voters would have a central location to cast their ballots, similar to the county's early voting precinct.
Smestad noted the cost per vote in the June primary in Ward County was $9.78.
"This is a taxpayer expense. We are trying to cut it as much as we can as we go forward," she said.
A change in polls would have some start-up costs, too, though. The county would need to obtain seven to nine additional electronic poll books at a cost of $22,358 and $28,746.
Electronic poll books speed voting because workers don't have to page through printed books to identify voters. Identification information, such as address changes, can be made quickly and easily, Smestad said.
Alderman Chuck Barney said he initially had reservations about reducing the number of poll sites, but he's come to support the plan as he's learned more about it.
"I really think that this is the way to go," he said. "It will be more efficient and more effective. Ultimately, it's going to be simpler for the constituency."
Alderman Bob Miller argued against separating the polling places from their wards. He said constituents who have talked with him feel strongly that they want to have a voting place in their ward.
"It really goes to the matter of the convenience of the voter," he said.
"I believe that this process will be more convenient for the voter," Barney responded. "I think it will be easier for everybody to figure out where to vote."
Alderman Larry Frey also supported the idea of retaining at least one polling place in each ward. Wards now have two or three sites. One per ward would leave seven sites.
Alderman Dean Frantsvog moved for more study since no decision needs to be made for the 2012 elections until December 2011. The committee unanimously agreed to send the matter back to the liaison committee.