The Cost of Elections By Jurisdiction


Elections costs are governed by RCW 29A.04.410; 29A.04.420; and 29A.32.270; 29A.24.091 and the State Auditor's Office BARS GAAP Manual. They are allocated based upon the number of active registered voters in the district (Method 2). The district's percentage of total active registered voters is then used to determine the district's "share" of election costs. 
Voter Pamphlet printing costs are allocated as a direct cost per page, reflecting the participant activity. 
Election costs vary greatly depending upon the size and complexity of each election. The more jurisdictions on the ballot and the more registered voters participating, the lower the cost. Once a district has an item on the ballot, there is no additional cost if the district adds additional items/races. 

Election Cycles

Special elections (February and April) tend to cost between $2.00 and $4.00 per registered voter, and as high as $9.00 per registered voter.  
Primary and general elections vary between odd and even year, and over a four year election cycle culminate with the November presidential election. Over the four year period, election costs run between $0.60 cents and $1.80 per registered voter depending on which election (primary or general) and year in the cycle. Even years include federal, state, and some local races. Odd years include cities, towns, and local districts.

Searchable Data

Voters can use these graphs to find the cost of an election, cost per registered voter, or cost per ballot cast. 
Jurisdictions can use filters to get costs by election type (specials, primary, or general) for their jurisdictions. (Remove Total and select desired jurisdiction on the jurisdiction filter.) Jurisdiction types include the State of Washington, Pierce County, cities and towns, Port of Tacoma, transit, school, library, fire, water, park, and drainage. Occasionally, State and Pierce County elections are not countywide.
*You may need to close the Legend to apply filters.

Election Cost Per Registered Voter

We've excluded presidential preference primary costs by default on the filter. If you want to see those costs, remove that filter. Use View Source Data link to see the number of registered voters.

Election Cost By Ballots Cast - By Election Type

As a point of interest, costs can be viewed by voter turnout. The following data displays elections costs by the number of ballots returned in a particular election. Select an election type filter and you'll see costs based upon voter participation. The graph below depicts general election cost by ballots cast.
Beginning in 2007, the primary election was moved from September to August. Use both filters to see complete history. 
Presidential preference primaries (PPP) began in 2012 but the State chose not to hold one that year. The 2016 PPP was in May and the 2020 PPP was in March. Use both filters to see data. Prior to 2012, these four-year events were included in the February special elections.
By 2010, the State eliminated the March and May special elections.