The rising cost of a Lowell Preliminary Election – $140,000 in 2015 ?


In the City of Lowell at least 19 candidates for City Council are required for a September Preliminary to whittle the field down to 18 for the general election. On the School Committee side, 13 are needed for a preliminary.

Back in 2009 it was reported in the MMA Newsletter that a preliminary election would cost between $40,000 – $50,000

In Lowell, eliminating the preliminary election is expected to save between $44,000 and $50,000, according to Gail Cenik, general manager of Lowell’s Elections and Census Commission. This year, there are 21 candidates competing for the city’s nine at-large council seats.

In 2013 the reported cost was up to $60,000 – $65,000 according to the Sun:

As of the deadline to turn in nomination papers Tuesday at 5 p.m., 22 candidates had handed in enough certified signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. Signatures of 50 registered city voters were required

In a recent memo to the City Council, City Solicitor Christine O’Connor wrote the overall cost of a preliminary election could be $60,000 to $65,000, which includes $48,000 for poll workers.

According to Ted Panos this morning on WCAP , he was told by Election Office Director Eda Matchak that the City had budgeted in 2015 $140,000 for a September Preliminary. The same amount has been set for the November Election also.

I’d like to know how the cost of a preliminary seemed to DOUBLE in 2 years. If you told me it would be $100,000 I’d say that was a bit high but more realistic. Hopefully a Councilor or the Manager will ask for a breakdown of what the $140,000 cost involves.

I’m wondering if the cost of a recount was added into the total cost? That would help explain the huge increase.

I can tell you some of the cost comes from printing the ballots and programming/maintaining the election machines but even if you consider the amount of poll workers and police officers required during that day along with DPW staff who are a HUGE asset in getting the equipment delivered and set up to all the locations and then returned to city hall when the polls close. Even with all that $140,000 seems to be a very high number

Regardless of the cost or the number of candidates, I do not see any present City Councilor or anyone in the City Manager’s Office bringing forth a motion to cancel a preliminary if one is needed. This Manager and Council have been big on transparency and open government and what is more Democratic than a preliminary election?

With quality challengers in both the Council and School Committee races, it also gives the incumbents a better understanding of where they are in the voters eyes. In the 2013 Municipal Preliminary Election only 12.02% of the voters turned out that day but look at what the results were then:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 12.22.20 PM

In the General Election in November look at the final results.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 12.24.12 PM

A challenger (Corey Belanger) improved from a 12th place finish to a 7th place finish while a city councilor (Bill Martin) went from 3rd place in September to 8th place in November. Marty Lorrey who finished 9th in September was knocked out in November finishing 10th due to Belanger’s surge.

The preliminary showed Belanger where he needed to work and he did. Martin was the victim of a lackluster campaign effort and negative press. Of Course many will say that the SUN had a huge impact on the 2013 election and that was clear. They beat up many councilors / candidates they thought loyal to Manager Lynch (Lorrey – Nuon- Mendonca and Martin) and supported those in favor of NOT giving a contract, especially to that Manager. WCAP also for the first time in my memory, endorsed candidates and again they were the ones who didn’t support Manager Lynch for the most part.

2015 will be an interesting election, many solid candidates are running, there is no real major issue on the Council side and what impact will WCAP / SUN have on this election?

However does it really cost $140,000?