Redistricting isn’t free: Georgia might have to pay for postage

State Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, speaks on behalf of redistricting legislation during November special session of the General Assembly at the Georgia Capitol. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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State Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, speaks on behalf of redistricting legislation during November special session of the General Assembly at the Georgia Capitol. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

For $2.6M, every voter will receive mailed notifications

Redistricting in Georgia came with an unexpected cost to taxpayers: $2.6 million to mail new precinct cards.

Each of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters will receive notification in the mail this spring showing his or her districts for congressional, state and local offices.

The once-a-decade redistricting in the fall changed district lines across the state, with new political boundaries and representation before the May 24 primary elections and Nov. 8 general election.

State law requires notifications by first-class mail to voters following redistricting. The U.S. Postal Service’s bulk rate for this type of presorted mailing is 33.5 cents per parcel.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asked legislators last week to add the postage expense to this year’s state budget, enabling his office to reimburse county election officials. If the expense isn’t included in the state budget, county governments would be responsible for the cost.

Either way, taxpayers will fund the expense.

“The counties know about it,” Raffensperger said during a budget hearing. “They’re calling everyone that is going to be looking at it because it’s really for them.”

Local election office budgets are already strained by the cost of buying special security paper for ballots that includes features to verify their authenticity, as required by Georgia’s voting law, Senate Bill 202, said Todd Edwards of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, an organization that advocates for counties. Election officials can use an infrared scanner to check whether ballots are printed on official security paper.

Prices vary, but in Cobb County, officials paid 13 cents per in-person ballot and 29 cents per absentee ballot last year.

“It would certainly be considerate of the state to fund this expense for counties, particularly considering the added expenses counties are assuming because of the passage of SB 202,” Edwards said.

Georgia’s new districts are being challenged in court, meaning district lines could change again, even as election officials are preparing to mail notifications to voters.