Thursday, February 13, 2014

Democrat and Republican parties owe Delaware over $288,000 for 2012 alone

Every two years the citizens of Delaware take part in taxpayer-funded elections, choosing between the ballot-qualified candidates of two "major" and three "alternate" or "minor" parties.

In many cases there clashes within the Democratic and Republican parties--primaries--to determine who will be the candidate in the General Election.  These are purely partisan contests that benefit only the parties themselves, and yet taxpayers--including non-affiliated and alternate party voters who comprise about 35% of the electorate--pay for them.

Moreover, these primary elections are expensive.  A recent Pew study concluded in March 2013 that, across the nation, Democratic and Republican primaries cost American taxpayers over $400 million.  The "per voter" cost of such elections varies wildly, from $1,57/voter in Tennessee and Texas to over $11/voter in New York.  A reasonable average cost (since I cannot find specifics on Delaware costs) would be about $3.93/voter.

Given that statistic, we can determine that at least 73,400 people voted in the Delaware 2012 primaries for Statewide and local offices (probably the number was at least 25% higher, but I can't break it down in individual races without spending about six hours in calculations).

At $3.93/voter, that means our primaries costs the Delaware Department of Elections over $288,000 in 2012.

This is not inconsequential, as the entire budget for the Department of Elections is just a hair over $4 million annually, meaning that our partisan primaries account for about 7% of that budget.

You have to ask yourself:  we can't, apparently, afford door locks for schools, or infrastructure spending, or to clean up our polluted waterways . . . but we can afford--year in and year out--to subsidize partisan primaries for Democrats and Republicans!?

Ironically, we already have a mechanism in place that could easily pay for said primaries.

The Democratic and Republican parties are allowed to set filing fees (up to 1% of the total compensation for the office under consideration) for all candidates.  Of course, while the Delaware Department of Elections collects these fees, it sees none of the money--the checks are even required by statute to be made out to the parties themselves.

How much are these fees?  How about $10,440 for US Senator, $4,124 for Insurance Commissioner, $1,744 for State Senator, $872 for State Representative.

By my (very rough) count, the filing fees paid by the 100 candidates who ran in primaries in 2012 would have covered the cost of the primaries about twice over . . . had the money stayed in the Department of Elections.

So it's real simple:  let's just change Title 15 Section 3103 of the Delaware Code to mandate that checks for filing fees shall be made out to the Delaware Department of Elections, and that the Department of Elections will remit the balance to each party organization after deducting the actual costs of conducting the primary elections.

Simple?  Saves the State an easy quarter million without raising anybody's taxes.  Requires about two lines to be changed in the Delaware Code.

Except, uh, there are only Democrats and Republicans in the Delaware General Assembly, and if you expect any of them to even talk about this, much less introduce and enact legislation (which would have to be gotten past a gubernatorial veto) you're delusional.

Unless, of course, there happened to be a Libertarian sitting in the General Assembly to at least bring up uncomfortable questions like this.  Hint, hint.

Look to the far right and contribute today.


Arthur said...

THose fees are too low. For a guaranteed lifetime income they should be raised to reflect this. I suggest:

US Senator - $20,000
Insurance Commish - $12,000
State Senator - $5000
State Rep - $4000

Imagine what those new fees could pay for!

Anonymous said...

I was curious about the cost of the major party primaries when I was on the executive committee of the LPD.

I asked Frank Calio (State Election Commissioner at that time) what the numbers were for the Democratic primary in Delaware (2004). He would not supply me with the numbers. I then went to my State Representative and he got the numbers directly from Mr. Calio.

The cost was 1 million dollars, all charged to the tax payers of Delaware. Remember this was just for the Presidential primary. The state primary's were held 2 months later.

I put out a press release and only one news outlet contacted me.

tom said...

I think you are heavily underestimating the cost of running primaries. And in any case, making up numbers does your credibility no good.

When I wrote about this six years ago the Dept. of Elections wouldn't give me the numbers and I figured that I might no longcr be as motivated after waiting for a FOIA response, so I stuck to general statements rather than hard numbers.

But Elections does not have a large fixed staff, and their major responsibility is conducting elections. I suspect that the primaries are a much larger percentage of their budget tthan you might guess. Unless there are no statewide candidates being primaried, there is no reason why it should cost significantly less than a general election.

As for funding it via filing fees,
I don't think they would come close, and in any case, they are (and should continue to be) set by and paid to the parties, including minor parties. Changing that could have disasterous consequences for us.

It is high time for an accounting of primary costs though. And the bill should be sent to those who benefit, not the taxpayers in general.

Anonymous said...

In 2012, Both the Republican U.S. Senate candidate (Wade) & Republican U.S. House Candidates (Kovach) got the filing fee returned to them by the Delaware State GOP. The proof is in each candidate’s FEC filing report. I smell a class action suite here.