WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Voters accustomed to casting ballots at the polls are finding a safe vote-by-mail alternative during the pandemic, and that's impacting election budgets.
Indian River County Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan is in uncharted waters.
"For an election, the most we ever sent out was about 29,000 vote-by-mail ballots. We sent out in excess of 52,000," she said. "We've had to quickly adapt to the new way of conducting elections."
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office has "already exceeded where we expected to be five years from now."
Link told Contact 5 more than 40% of registered voters requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the general election, up from 28% in past elections.
More ballots mean more postage and more staff.
"We're having full staffing for early voting, full staffing for Election Day and all of the additional vote-by-mail, so, it's just, you have a lot of duplicated costs," Link said.
Link believes her office will receive about $1.5 million from the CARES Act to help offset the increase in expenses, plus money from the county and grant dollars.
Swan told Contact 5 she used the dollars to purchase an array of materials and machines.
"It would have been catastrophic had we not received the CARES Act funds," she said.
Although both supervisors are laser-focused on getting through his election, questions remain about what happens after.
"The next two general elections, I feel like we are going to have a great number of vote-by-mail ballots, so I'm going to have to anticipate that when we set up and submit our next budget," Swan said.
Link said it may also change how her office prepares for the next election.
"Eventually, if you know a large portion of your voters are going to vote through vote-by-mail, then maybe you cannot have as many sites open for Election Day, but right now, we can't assume that," Link said.