In a public presentation at the Sept. 9 St. Charles County Council meeting, County Election Director Kurt Bahr gave the council members and general audience an introductory lesson in the workings of the St. Charles County Election Authority.
Bahr pointed out that St. Charles County is the third-largest county in the state, with 266,000 registered voters. The county trails St. Louis and Jackson counties in the number of registered voters, but outpaces St. Louis City in that respect.
The county is divided into 122 precincts, and there are currently 115 polling locations, although that number is expected to drop before the next county-wide election in April 2020.
Bahr addressed the challenge of ensuring that ballots are available for every election throughout the county, even though this requires between 100-250 separate ballots for the various elections. The election director then moved on to a discussion of his office and his staffing needs. He noted that the office employs 15 full-time employees and will hire another 10 workers on a full-time, temporary basis, as the November 2020 Election Day nears. The budget for full-time staff is $900,000.
Bahr said his office, like most election boards, is always short of election judges and must hire and train 800 such persons before each Election Day. He mentioned that working as an election judge is an excellent way for someone to become actively involved in the electoral process, without actually standing for office.
He then noted that the most common question he receives in public forums concerns what he and his office do when there is no election scheduled for several months. In reply, he reminded those assembled that it usually takes four to six months to prepare for an election and many more months to review it, in terms of what worked, what did not work and what can be improved. Bahr stated that his office is in the process of upgrading technology and engaging in more complete training so that all of his people are up-to-date on the latest software and other equipment.
In addition to election procedures, its machinery and the need for trained people, Bahr pointed out that an election costs money to administer. He noted that a general election costs between $500,000 and $600,000 to administer, and that the postage charges alone usually are over $30,000 – all of which is incurred by the public.
Bahr stated that his office, like other election authorities, are careful stewards of public funds, but that the costs always increase as populations grow, incorporations and annexations take place, and the need for public order proceeds apace.
Bahr said it was of paramount importance to notify voters of elections and maintain the integrity of the voter rolls. He reminded those assembled that it is crucial to inform the election board if they are moving or have recently relocated, so that this change of address can be officially recorded, resulting in proper voter registration and fewer problems on Election Day.