(DETROIT FREE PRESS) -- When voters in Allegan and Lapeer County go to the polls on Tuesday to select their favorite candidate to fill two vacant seats in the state House of Representatives, they'll also be on the hook for a hefty, and unexpected, bill — likely well into the six figures.
The resignation of former state Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and expulsion of Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, on Sept. 11 set up a special election that local officials had not counted on.
There were regular elections already set in the cities in the two counties and ballots had been printed for those races. But there were no elections scheduled for the 18 townships in Lapeer and 21 townships in Allegan County.
When Courser and Gamrat left the Legislature and a special election was called a day later, the ballots that had already been printed for city elections in Lapeer and Allegan counties had to be thrown out, a cost which clerks estimated was tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, township clerks had to scramble to find workers to staff polling places that had planned to be shuttered for the Nov. 3 election.
"A lot of the township clerks who weren't having elections are having to recertify poll workers," said Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer. "And for some jurisdictions, if there aren't any elections, the certified poll workers — some are folks who have retired — might have already left for Florida for the winter."
Spencer, who said the last countywide election in May cost about $120,000, held a countywide training for poll workers a few weeks ago and about 40 people showed up.
In Allegan County, clerk Joyce Watts said reprinting the ballot ran about $30,000 and the townships will incur even more costs hiring workers, setting up precincts and covering the cost of postage for absentee ballots that are being sent out. She had planned on consolidating several township precincts to accommodate a school district election, in the hopes of saving some money. But that decision had to be reversed.
"That would have saved the schools a lot of money," she said. "We learned about the change the day after the printer called us and said the ballots are being shipped this afternoon. We didn't even save the shipping costs. You talk about timing."
The costs to Allegan and Lapeer counties don't take into account the taxpayer dollars associated with investigating the sex scandal and bizarre cover-up involving Courser and Gamrat. House Business Office director Tim Bowlin said totals haven't been compiled yet, but he and other staffers put in hundreds of hours on the investigation. And legal expenses continue to pile up.
Meanwhile, there are 11 Republicans, including Courser, and three Democrats running for the 82nd district seat in the House and eight Republicans, including Gamrat, and one Democrat running for the 80th district House seat.
Both clerks report lots of activity with multiple mailers going out in both districts.
"It will be a healthy turnout. The city elections usually generate about an 18-20% turnout," Watts said. "I think this one will be closer to 40%."
Another special election is being held to fill the 75th district House seat that was left vacant by former state Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, who left his seat in August to become chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Because his seat is wholly contained within the city of Grand Rapids, which was already having a city election, the special election to fill his seat is not costing the county any additional money.
The primary election winners on Tuesday will move on to the March 8 general election, the same day as the state's presidential primary election.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @michpoligal.
Candidates for the 80th district seat
Eric DeWitt of Holland
Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell
Bill Sage of Allegan
James Siver of Fennville
Jim Storey of Holland
Shannon Szukala of Martin
Kevin Travis of Hopkins
Mary Whiteford of Casco Township
David Gernant of Plainwell
Candidates for the 82nd district seat
Chris Tuski of Hadley Township
Ian Kempf of Imlay City
Gary Howell of North Branch
Jake Davison of Lapeer
James Dewilde of Lapeer
Alan Landosky of Lapeer
Jan Peabody of Lapeer
Russell Adams of Lapeer
Todd Courser of Lapeer
Sharna Cramer Smith of Lum
Rick Guerrero Jr. of Imlay City
Margaret Guerrero DeLuca of Imlay City
R.D. Bohm of Dryden
Eric Johnson of Lapeer
Candidates for the 75th district House seat
Blake Edmonds of Grand Rapids
David LaGrand of Grand Rapids
Michael Scruggs of Grand Rapids