The US 2020 presidential election seems to be a costly enterprise to the taxpayers. What is the total cost of the administration of the US 2020 presidential election?

  • 2
    Just to the federal government, or including all individual states?
    – divibisan
    Nov 14, 2020 at 21:05
  • 1
    Just the general election, or the primaries as well?
    – Joe C
    Nov 14, 2020 at 21:07
  • 1
    I'm interested in the total cost (including primaries and states) Nov 14, 2020 at 21:08
  • 1
    This seems pretty broad as you would need to factor in public and private funds to determine the total costs which include thing such as people needing time off to go vote or help work at polling locations.
    – Joe W
    May 20, 2023 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


For only the administrative costs of running a presidential election, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports,

The usual estimate for running a presidential election is $2 billion to $3 billion nationwide. That’s not counting the costs of campaigns or all the nongovernmental funding associated with registering voters and getting them to the polls; those expenditures are strictly voluntary. It’s a back-of-the-envelope guesstimate as to what local jurisdictions and states spend to put on a major election.

And notes that more data is needed,

Inquiring minds want to get a better sense of what it costs to run elections that are efficient, accurate and secure. “The lack of reliable information about what it costs to run elections makes it hard for legislators to know how to respond when emergencies like voting during COVID occur,” Stewart says. “Knowing not only what elections cost overall but getting a better sense of how all the parts of election budgeting work together would invite more informed discussions between legislators and election officials about the states’ needs.”

It is not clear whether the NCSL estimate includes primaries. Open Primaries reports, for the 2012 presidential primaries,

The cost of running primaries, either closed or open, in all 50 states came out to be $427,300,168.79.

The above deals only with the administrative costs. Including the administrative costs and campaign spending ($14.4 billion), the total was about $17.5 billion.

  • 2
    Which works out to about $13 per capita, per year (all in), spread over the four year election cycle, or $52 per capita per Presidential election.
    – ohwilleke
    May 20, 2023 at 20:53

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