Gwinnett elections budget running low, county applying for $2.2M grant



Gwinnett County has spent its more than $15 million regular elections budget for 2020, and money set aside to pay election workers is almost gone, according to county officials.

The busy election year has left Gwinnett with a large bill for work done to conduct a primary, a general election, two runoffs and three presidential recounts, all in the midst of an unprecedented national public health emergency. The county has also provided three weeks of early voting at multiple polling places for all four elections.

The pandemic and near-constant elections have put high pressure on the department. The county has hired a large number of temporary workers to assist in processing absentee ballots and to help complete recounts of the general election, according to Lynn Ledford, a Department of Community Services division director who oversees elections.

“At any given time we have had 200 or so temps working with us,” Ledford said at a Tuesday night meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections.

To cover the price of the elections, the county is turning to grants and hoping the state also pitches in some financial assistance.

The county also had a significant unexpected expense from buying personal protective equipment for poll workers and voters. During the primary, November’s general election and the current Senate runoff, poll workers were provided masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Gloves and hand sanitizer have also been made available to voters.

The three statewide presidential recounts put a financial burden on Gwinnett and counties across Georgia. Gwinnett has not determined exactly how much the recounts have cost them, spokesman Joe Sorenson said. During the hand recount, elections director Kristi Royston said some funds from the state might be available to cover county costs, but it had not been determined.

The county’s general elections budget for 2020 was more than $11 million, and Gwinnett has received at least $4.2 million in grants from outside groups and the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. All of that has been spent, Ledford said.

Because there are only two weeks left in the year, the department is not in imminent financial danger. But the county is applying for another grant to cover elections costs from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a Chicago non-profit that previously gave Gwinnett a grant of $4.1 million. The new grant would be worth $2.2 million and would be used for costs associated with the Jan. 5 runoff, Ledford said.