Cincinnati's mayoral primary costs $400K, $35 per vote

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Board of Elections (BoE) anticipates Tuesday's mayoral primary will cost roughly $437,000.

"There's a price to pay for democracy and this is one of those prices," former City Councilman Jeff Berding told FOX19.

Berding helped lead the "Build Cincinnati" effort in the late 90's which added the mayoral primary to the city's charter. The first election under the new amendment occurred 2001.

Before that time, the candidate who gained the most votes in the council race became the city's mayor.

"We felt, and the voters agreed, that it was important that the mayor have more than fifty percent of the vote to have a mandate to help lead our city," he explained.

The change in the charter required a "non-partisan primary" to be held "on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in September prior to the election."

"The thought was the filing deadline wasn't until January, and if you have a primary in May, it really does give grassroots candidates time to really get out there and present their case to the voters," he said.

Because it is the only issue on the ballot, Cincinnati picks up the entire tab; paying back the county for the cost of running the election.

At roughly $2,500 for 175 precincts, the estimated total comes to over $437,000.

"Despite what anyone's understanding is or their belief is about the election and whether or not it should be happening, the bottom line is we have to satisfy and comply will all Ohio state laws as far as how to conduct the election," explained Hamilton County Director of Elections Amy Searcy.

Searcy says the BoE has decreased the number of precincts to lower costs in recent years.

The board of elections handles a number of different special elections, but what makes this one different is its sheer size.

"In this case, because the City of Cincinnati is the largest political jurisdiction within Hamilton County at 175 precincts, it's a big project. It's a lot of work," Searcy said.

Berding recognizes there is no such thing as a perfect system and hopes the Build Cincinnati's effort will be a step in the evolution of the city's charter.

"I think we should always look to improve the system," he emphasized.

According to the Hamilton County Board of Elections, 21% of voters came out for the 2005 mayoral primary.

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