An expensive year for elections in Forsyth County could have been more costly if not for volunteers, officials said.
With the help of county employees who volunteered to work the polls, the county was able to save more than $22,000 over the six elections of 2010.
The elections included: a special election in May; the July primary; the General Election on Nov. 2; and one runoff for each of the three. In total, the county spent about $350,000 on elections this year.
“It was quite a sight to see so many employees, including county management and other volunteers alongside our regular poll workers,” said Barbara Luth, elections supervisor.
“During these challenging economic times, it was gratifying to see different departments willing to take the cost-savings measure of sending their employees to help at the polls and to see residents willing to volunteer.”
In addition to using staff volunteers, the elections office debuted a new policy in 2010 regarding poll workers.
“Starting in May, new poll workers volunteered for their first time,” said Betsy Brown, a member of the elections staff. “After they volunteer, they are eligible to be paid for future elections, if they so choose. Some have continued to volunteer.”
During the Nov. 2 election, 68 students and adults, along with 28 county employees, volunteered to work for free.
There still were 125 paid employees. Thanks to all the volunteers, however, Brown said the county paid $20,000 for poll workers instead of $30,000.
“It was absolutely awesome,” she said. “We had people asking, ‘Can I do this again?”
Several employees kept returning to help out, including Kathy McWilliams, who works as the county manager’s executive assistant.
McWilliams, who started volunteering in May, took part in all six elections this year.
“It was a good opportunity to see what they do,” she said. “I got to learn the process and learn about the other areas of the county I actually don’t get involved with. I really enjoyed it.”
Like many governments, the county was working under a tight budget this year.
Having the additional cost of special elections and several runoffs only added to the financial woes.
According to county figures, the May special election and June runoff cost $23,000 combined. With volunteers and employees giving their time, the county was able to save more than $4,500.
The July primary and August runoff cost $33,000, but would have cost about $40,000 without the help of volunteers and county employees.
“It was going to be really costly for voters, so it was a wonderful opportunity to ... use the people and the resources that we already have,” McWilliams said.
“It kind of feels really good when you feel like you’re helping people.”