Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, R, wants to pick up the pace on the reimbursement process for local election authorities. He tells Missourinet he’s discussing with state lawmakers proposing legislation next year that would allow his office – not local election authorities – to estimate the cost of each election. Ashcroft says there’s not enough money is in his budget to repay the full cost of local elections.
“We’ve had elections where it’s taken us over a year to repay some of our election authorities the cost of the elections they did for our state,” says Ashcroft. “We have counties that cannot spend $30,000 and wait a year to be reimbursed.”
Ashcroft also wants an estimated line item in his budget, which allows more wiggle room in how much money would be given to cover election costs. State lawmakers have removed most or all estimated or “E” budget line items to prevent departments from getting out of hand with spending more than projected.
“We’re working with the legislature to hopefully come up with some criteria that if these certain criteria are met, then an “E” could be given in the budget,” says Ashcroft.
He describes the elections budget as being very volatile.
“You never know how many people are going to change positions,” says Ashcroft. The Secretary of State’s office has no control over the cost of an election. We can enforce the law with what we will pay but we don’t get to call the election. That’s done by the governor. We don’t determine how many vacancies there will be and how many elections there will be. So we’re kind of caught between the legislature that provides the funding, the executive (branch), and whatever individuals leave their offices to determine how many elections there are.”
The way the current system is set up requires Ashcroft’s office to pay the estimated election cost a certain number of weeks in advance. After the polls close, the election authorities inform his office of the actual cost. Ashcroft’s office pays for any overages or the local agencies must refund any unused money.
Another quirk in current law does not allow his office to easily use money reimbursed by election authorities. Ashcroft says the state considers the funds to be spent, even though the money is back in the account.
Ashcroft was elected in November 2016 and was sworn into office on January 9.
Hear the full interview with Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft: