The Cost of Voting

Would You Pay $15.00 to Vote for President?

We all pay to vote in elections.

How? Because the costs of voting machines, poll workers, paper ballots, and overall election administration are typically covered by tax dollars, we’re all indirectly paying for the privilege to vote.

Why then as tax-paying citizens shouldn’t we demand a better value (like convenient and secure mobile voting that works around our busy lives) for our hard earned tax dollars?

This is exactly the market opportunity Votem is pursuing.

Breaking down National Election Spend.

The cost per vote in a national election can exceed $10.00 when turnout is high, and even higher when turnout is low in municipal and other elections. In Australia for example, the cost of federal elections has risen 15%/year since 1990, resulting in an estimated $230 million bill, or roughly $15 (AUD) per voter for the most recent election.

The cost breakdown for administering an election is opaque at best because elections are extraordinarily nuanced; in order to breakdown the cost of elections, you have to understand the complexity of elections.

For the U.S. 2016 General Election, LA County spent $42.51mm dollars coordinating the election for 4,988 precincts, 4,523 polling places, 306 candidates, 142 offices, 58 local measures, 2 county measures, 17 state measures, and 607 ballot groups. This only begins to contextualize the complexity. At a national level in the U.S., there are more than 10,000 county election officials administering elections for over 500,000 elected officials across nearly 10,000 jurisdictions. In fact, more than $1 billion annually is spent on election administration, approximately ~$30 per capita.

However, the bulk of the cost does not even stem from this geographic, ballot nor technical complexity; the bulk of cost results from administrative complexity. There are significant costs associated with: printing ballot papers, distributing postal ballots domestically and internationally, staffing polling stations, counting paper ballots, handling postal vote applications, processing received postal ballots, promotional informational material, procuring polling booths and ballot boxes, training staff, transporting materials, storing completed ballot papers after an election, and more.

Such per-voter costs, already significant, can also increase substantially, depending on:

  • How much multi-party electoral experience a country has,
  • the length of a given election,
  • fragmentation and complexity of a given election’s decision-set, and
  • the degree of democratic consolidation.

In the UK, which spent £120mm on the 2016 EU Referendum, more than £50mm was spent on staffing poll workers and processing paper ballots…even £32,000 was spent on pencils!

There are hundreds of public national elections around the world in any given year. So far in 2017, there have been more than 60 major elections involving nearly 430,000,000 voters out of an eligible voter base of nearly 4 billion people so the opportunity for making a material impact on the cost and efficacy of elections is clear.

As the regularity of elections increases, the cost of elections and ancillary operations, from temporary election staff to voter information technologies, increases.

Herein lies the sizable opportunity for Votem to cut these administrative election costs and realize greater technological efficiencies through mobile voting. In fact, the European Parliament claims that online voting in Estonia is 2.5 times cheaper than the paper alternative. Similarly, it’s estimated that online voting in the UK could save up to £18mm per election.

In addition to the public elections market, there is a significant opportunity to support voting in other vertical markets across the globe including:

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