John Abramson, the staff director of the Board of Elections, is fretting that his agency is facing a “fiscal crisis,” according to a Feb. 17 Source article.
That point of view should be taken with a large pinch of salt, and a larger dose of relevant statistics.
My home town, Arlington, Virginia, has an election board that does exactly what the V.I. board does, except it does it every year, not every other year.
This, not atypical Mainland community, had 110,00 voters in our most recent big election, for President. The Islands had 31,000 in the last gubernatorial election.
So Arlington had about 3.5 times as many voters as the V.I.
Which jurisdiction pays more for these services? Abramson is complaining about a proposed $1.1 million budget. Arlington, in the last full year, had a budget of $740,000 for its elections.
Why should a smaller operation cost much more than a larger one?
In terms of costs per vote, here are the totals: $35.48 per vote in the islands, assuming an $1.1 million budget and a voter population of 31,000. In Arlington, using the same formula, the cost was $6.72 per vote. Arlington’s costs on a per-vote basis are less than 20% of those in the islands.
Maybe people should be looking carefully at the V.I. Elections Board’s cost structure.
Editor's Note: David North, a retired Department of the Interior official and a resident of Arlington, Virginia, writes about government and money from time to time. He pointed out a couple of years ago that the V.I. Lottery was the only one in the history of the U.S. to run at a loss; he has also written about the V.I. Department of Education's unused federal funds returned to the U.S. Treasury.