Last month I did a story, with a video, about my adventures in completely non-partisan voter registration happening in front of my local grocery store. It made me wonder about how one sets up a voter drive, acquires materials, what the costs are and what happens to the forms once you sign up at a drive. I decided to check with the NC Board of Elections (BOE). I also delve into the changes in voter registration numbers in North Carolina further down in this article.
From an email I sent to the BOE:
1. How much does it cost the BOE annually to print voter registration forms?
Voter registration forms are printed on an as needed basis. The cost of printing forms ranges from $26.99 per box of 1000 forms to $125.14 per box of 1000 forms printed. This range is based on the quantity of forms requested to be printed at any one time.
2. How many forms are distributed either annually or monthly? Between 2009 – 2010, we distributed over 1.7 million voter registration forms.
In 2011, we distributed almost 700,000 voter registration forms. Thus far, in 2012, we have distributed over 900,000 voter registration forms. These forms were provided to: North Carolina’s 100 county boards of elections; agencies required to offer voter registration services (e.g, DMV, Departments of Social Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Services to the Blind, etc.); high schools and colleges; libraries; and to individuals or organizations who were interested in conducting voter registration drives.
3. What mailing fees are involved? Is there an annually or monthly total I can access?
Voter registration forms are shipped in quantities of 1000 forms per box. The printer ships UPS at the cost of approx. $9-$11 per box. In addition, there are annual administrative costs associated with storage and handling fees. These costs have ranged from $2600 to $3200 per year.
4. Is there a list of the organizations or individuals requests?
(Note: I received said list and have linked it further down in this article.)
The range of the cost per box was huge – anywhere from $26.99 a box to $125.14 a box. I was never able to get clarification on that discrepancy. I’d assume that the larger the order, the lower the cost. Just based on the lower end number from this email, 2011’s costs were a minimum of $18,893.
Going by the emailed numbers, if we go with an average of $10 a box and an average administrative fee $2,900 and the cost is relatively small via UPS at $700 for the boxes and around $4 and change per box.
Add the printing cost to the shipping/admin cost = $22,393
You can do the math for each year using those basic ratios. Keep in mind that the printing costs varied a lot . If it were worst case scenario at $125 a box, it cost $87, 500 – yikes. Landing somewhere in the middle around $60 and you’ve got $42,000.
It’s not so much the money that bothered me as the fact there are no controls on these forms. Although, I don’t see these numbers as chump change since it’s the people’s money. In a nutshell, once the BOE ships you a box, they don’t track the forms nor require unused ones to be returned to them. There is no way of knowing what happens to these forms, used or unused.
Below is a list of the number of voter registration forms and related materials requested by year from the end of 2009 through August 7th of 2012. These numbers are pulled from the spreadsheet sent to me by the same representative of the BOE in the email above. The numbers are linked to cleaned up breakout spreadsheets by year, since the original document was difficult to sort and the data was not uniformly entered. I apologize for the formatting in Scribd, the sheets have a lot of columns and therefore makes the document very long. Totals can be found at the bottom and all are downloadable. Also, anyone wishing to have this data to look at in an easier excel format can email me for a copy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note, these numbers are higher than stated in the answers from the BOE representative. They include all types of voter form materials requested.
The group requesting the most forms overall (excluding the combined official county offices) was Organizing for America with 423,000 from 2010 until August 7, 2012. If you scrutinize the list, you see a concentration in Charlotte. The NC teachers lobby, NCAE, came in second with 13,000 from 2009 until August 7, 2012.
The May 11 2012 report of the number of voters registered as of that date in NC was 6,296,961 and their website as of September 2, 2012, when I finished compiling the data, lists the number of registered voters at 6,352,361. That’s a net gain of 554,000. Quite a large number registered just in a few short months. Given 1,592,000 forms were distributed in 2012 so far, that leaves 1,038,000 forms still out there unaccounted for. The breakout of registered voters by party in the May 11 report is:
- 2,735,523 Democrats
- 1,975,950 Republicans
- 1,571,658 Unaffiliated
- 13,830 Libertarians
If you go back to the 2010 report, there are 6,189,691 registered voters. The breakout of registered voters by party in the October 2010 report is:
- 2,765,429 Democrats
- 1,954,491 Republicans
- 1,460,702 Unaffiliated
- 9,069 Libertarians
So from 2010 to 2012, Democrats lost nearly 30,000 voters, while Republicans gained over 21,000. Libertarians even saw a significant jump, increasing by 4,671. Small wonder that OFA is doing voter drives in front of grocery stores. The largest change however, was with the unaffiliated, rising by nearly 111,000; an increase of 110,956.