With the first consolidated election between the city and county in the books and new City Council members elected by the people, County Clerk-Recorder Kammi Foote met with the Bishop City Council Monday to discuss how election day went.
Before the council certified the city’s election results, Foote said she wanted to look at what cost savings were realized by consolidating the election and what, if any, changes city leaders would like to see before the next election.
Foote also presented the council with the certified election results, naming incumbents Laura Smith and David Stottlemyre and challenger Pat Gardner the winners of the council election, and incumbent Bob Kimball as treasurer before City Administrator Keith Caldwell administered the oath of office.
Once sworn in, the council opened nominations for the positions of mayor and mayor pro-tem. Stottlemyre nominated Smith as mayor and Councilman Jim Ellis as mayor pro-tem. Both motions were passed unanimously.
Looking ahead, Foote said the consolidated election went smoothly from her side, but wanted to get input from the City Council about how they felt the election went, both as candidates running for office and as city leaders looking to reduce election costs while improving services.
Foote said the city was paying about $12,000 per election without consolidating with the county. Going in to the November General Election, she said she expected the city’s costs to be reduced to about $2,000.
In the end, she told the council Monday, the city’s cost for the election turned out to be $921.36.
“The county carries the lion’s share of the cost” for the General Election, Foote said, “because we would be doing it anyway. Three school districts also consolidated, so the cost was spread out.”
Ultimately, the county is paying $14,000 for printing sample ballots and other materials alone. “Most of the city’s costs were from printing, too,” she said.
Before moving forward with the consolidated election, city leaders had asked staff to weigh potential pros and cons of the change.
Foote said some of the concerns turned out to be non-issues. She said it is obvious that consolidating the election saved Bishop voters a trip to the polls (because the city’s elections were traditionally held at a different time, at a different polling place), that there was less work for the City Clerk’s Office (because most of the election work was conducted by the County Clerk’s Office) and of course, the cost savings.
One concern that was brought up before consolidating was a potential feeling in the city of a “loss of autonomy” if the county conducted the local election.
Smith and Stottlemyre, who said they sought out answers to questions about running for office through the County Clerk’s Office, both said they found the county staff to be very responsive and helpful.
City Clerk Denise Gillespie, who had a few questions of her own and also fielded questions from the public, said the County Clerk’s Office was very helpful. “I was never without answers,” she said.
Foote also said there were concerns that the city might feel a loss of civic pride because city voters would be casting their votes on city issues at the county’s Tri-County Fairgrounds polling place, rather than the Civic Auditorium on West Line Street, their traditional polling place.
Foote said that her office could look into adding the city auditorium as an additional polling place in future elections, if there was a sense of lost civic pride. City leaders said they didn’t hear any such complaints about the consolidated election format.
The final concern that was brought up in the consolidation study was the distance candidates and interested residents have to travel if they wanted to be present while ballots were being counted.
Traditionally, city staff and poll volunteers counted ballots in the auditorium immediately following each election and were able to deliver results just hours after the polls closed.
With the consolidated election, county staffers are responsible for tabulating the results in Independence, the county seat.
Foote also said that, because the county is counting more ballots than the city, certified election results take more time to tabulate.
For the November election, final results were not available for several days, due to outstanding provisional ballots that needed to be verified before being counted.
Stottlemyre said the distance to Election Central and the wait for election results “was not a problem at all.”
Following Foote’s presentation, each council member thanked her for the time and energy she put in to making the transition to a consolidated election as smooth as possible.