Santa Barbara’s Nov. 3 mail-in election came in under budget and had the highest turnout in 30 years, and on Tuesday, the City Council verified the results.

The large number of last-minute ballots overwhelmed city staff, administrative services director Marcelo Lopez said. Thirty percent of ballots were turned in during the last two days, and the unexpected volume contributed to final results being delayed until about 1:30 a.m. on election night.

Budgeted at $300,000, the election came in at $240,000, despite some costs being higher than expected. When contracting with the printer, the staff expected about nine candidates, one measure and a 22-page voter information pamphlet. By the end, of course, the numbers swelled to 18 candidates, four measures and a 60-page pamphlet.

Staff did negotiate some money back from the contracted company when the vote-counting machines’ malfunctioning caused a recount.

For future mail-only elections, the staff wants to consider buying a signature-verifying machine — which would cost about $20,000 — making Election Night charts more readable, evaluating dropoff locations’ effectiveness and creating a tighter schedule.

Lopez said the staff will definitely plan ahead for high voter turnout in the last few days of the election.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at