“This is the easiest country in the world in which to vote, but the one where the fewest people do,” declared Bill Giannini to the Midtown Republican Club last night at Cafe Eclectic. Making it easy and fair is what he has been tasked to do as Shelby County Election Commissioner and Mr. Giannini can report much success in his efforts since he took control of it last year.
“We’ve knocked 80,000 voters off in the last year and a half,” he said, “reduced the precinct number from 274 to 236, moved the Election night headquarters from downtown to Shelby Farms and reduced the cost of advertising by 50%.” In addition, they have added early voting centers in Lakeland and at Bellevue Baptist, alleviating crowded polls and making it easier for residents there to vote early.
The EPBs – electronic poll books – are another innovation he points to as helping increase efficiency and cut down on costs.
“It costs $375 per day per site for early voting alone. It takes 2,000 people to do an election,” Giannini notes, explaining why cost cutting is so important. “We have to train everyone of them and it’s a challenge to find 2,000. ” He cites his cost cutting methods have saved the county a lot of money. In this election, it has also resulted in a big early voting turnout.
“We had 10,700 people vote last Friday. On Saturday, which is 6 hours as opposed to the 9 hour opening, 6,300 people voted.
“We have not had a single problem with a machine.” he said.
The situation, however, is slated to change in 2012.
“Few people realize this, but there was a state law passed to force us to have paper ballots in the next election. We will take the $5 million spent on computers and turn it to pen and paper unless the law is changed,” he said. “We’ll be selling EPBs and equipment on Ebay and the paper cost will be astronomical. The storage, transfer and security cost will come into play unless the legislature stops this, he warns.” We’ll be using optical scanners and it will take longer. Our legislators need to hear from voters about this,”
Commenting on tomorrow’s election Giannini concludes “small elections have more importance than the presidential ones as they affect our lives more. Go out and vote, get your neighbors to vote!”