Cumberland County voters are only a day away from going to the polls and casting their ballots for elected officials.
While the voters will see only the election machines, poll workers and voting booths that make up the face of the election, months of preparation have gone into the event that is expected to cost the county about $400,000, according Penny Brown, Cumberland County director of elections and voter registration.
“The day of election for the six of us working in this office and the tech guys is just the culmination of everything we have done for four months up to that point, because we had our first deadline for this election in August,” Brown said. “That was right at the tail of the end of the special election. So, we did the special election and started doing this one.”
Brown said her day will begin at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and will run through well after the polls close at 8 p.m. until all the ballots have been counted.
“My staff and I will all be in place by 5:30 in the morning,” she said. “We are waiting to hear from any judges who might be having any issues, because we want everything up and running by 6:30 a.m., so we are ready to open the doors at 7 a.m.
“At about 8:30 a.m. or so that morning I will take my first deep breath and start breathing normally again because I know all the morning hiccups are over,” she added. “... At about 7 o’clock in the evening we literally put on our running shoes. We take off our high heels and put on our sneakers, because that’s when we start running in the building ... Behind the scenes there’s a lot of running.”
The county will spend roughly $11.60 per ballot if the same number ballots are cast Tuesday as there were in 2011, the last time an election included the race for seats on the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.
Brown said this includes rent for the polling places, production of absentee ballots, support for the electronic equipment and compensation for the roughly 1,200 poll workers and county employees.
Judges of elections earn a flat rate of $140 for the day, minority and majority inspectors earn $130 and machine operators receive $120.
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The judges and inspectors are elected positions.
“In my world, their elections are the most important election in the four-year-cycle, because they allow me to function,” she said.
Machine operators are not elected, and Brown said none of the poll workers can be county employees
“It’s basically people doing their civic duty,” Brown said. “We always, always need workers. We never have too many.”
Brown said the number of poll workers is set by law and determined by the number of registered voters.
“The number of people we use in a precinct is driven by the number machines in the precinct which is driven by the number of voters,” Brown said. “The law says one machine for every 350 voters, and we round up, and one person to work those machines for every two machines.”
While the employees at the Bureau of Elections spend their days preparing and making sure that voters can exercise their civic duty, Brown said her staff doesn’t typically find out the results of the election until late into the night.
“We are the last to know the results because we are looking at everything else,” she said. “We don’t know what happened until the last results come in.”