The cost of conducting vote-by-mail elections in Union and Wallowa counties is dropping significantly.

The reason: the Union and Wallowa county clerk’s offices have switched to a private mailing service to prepare and send ballots to voters for the Nov. 6 election.

“It will cut our cost by 50 percent,” said Union County Clerk Robin Church.

Wallowa County Clerk Sandy Lathrop also said her county’s expense will decrease significantly.

“(The cost savings) will be substantial,” Lathrop said.

The mailing service uses a mechanical inserter to place ballots inside envelopes, saving Union and Wallowa counties the expense of paying people to insert by hand.

In addition, Church explained, the U.S. Postal Service provides counties using the mailing service a special bulk rate because the company has computers that place address bar codes on envelopes.

The codes make it much easier for the Postal Service to sort envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots being sent to voters.

All of the envelopes with vote-by-mail materials for Union and Wallowa counties have already been inserted and addressed mechanically. Church said the process was completed in three hours for Union County’s more than 17,000 vote-by-mail ballots.

“This would have taken us 11 days,” Church said.

Lathrop said it took the company between 45 minutes and an hour to insert and address the Wallowa County ballots, saving her an enormous amount of work.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.