Cape County website will track absentee ballots

Absentee voters in Cape Girardeau County can find out when their ballots are received, thanks to action by the County Commission on Monday to add ballot-tracking technology to the county clerk’s election website.

The commissioners approved a request from County Clerk Kara Clark Summers to augment the website — — in order to enable absentee voters to track their ballots. Element 74 hosts the website and will upgrade the site to include the ballot-tracking feature for a one-time fee of $800.

“This will let voters know their ballots have been received,” Second District Commissioner Charlie Herbst said.

Summers expects a record number of absentee ballots, perhaps as many as 10,000, to be cast in Cape Girardeau County in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 general election.

In addition to approving the absentee ballot tracking system, the commissioners approved a second request from Summers to enhance the county’s election website in preparation for heavy usage during the election.

“She’s had trouble the last couple of elections with the amount of people trying to look at election results posted online on her website,” Herbst said. To accommodate the anticipated online demand, the county will pay an additional “hosting fee” to cover a dedicated server and additional bandwidth to handle the additional web traffic.

The $40 monthly hosting fee increase and the $800 one-time programming expense to add the ballot-tracking feature will be paid out of the county clerk’s election expense account.

Bonds paid off

Also on Monday, the commissioners agreed to an early payoff of bonds issued in 2000, which were scheduled to be paid off in 2022.

The bonds were originally issued to finance improvements to the Cape Girardeau County Jail and were refinanced in 2011 when the county was considering purchase of the former federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau.

“We would have had that money available to purchase the old federal building, which did not happen,” explained County Treasurer Roger Hudson. “The money was also to be used for other projects if that (purchase of the former courthouse building) did not happen, and we made those improvements all over.”

The county was scheduled to make payment of about $535,000 in November, but by paying off the bond balance of approximately $1,585,000, the county will save bond interest of more than $53,000. Had the county elected to pay the bonds off on as scheduled in 2022, the county would have earned about $19,000 interest by holding on to the money, so the net savings to the county will be approximately $34,000, Hudson said.

“And we’re reducing the county’s debt, which is a good thing,” Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said.

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