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San Diego will drop an estimated $4 million to elect its new mayor next week.

A hefty price tag is pretty standard for special elections, it seems. Last year’s three special races cost the city on average about $25.95 per voter. Compare that to the 42 cents per voter it paid in the November 2012 election.

SEE MORE: The Cost of Holding an Election, in 3 Charts

Why are these unexpected elections so expensive to pull off? Our love of convenience is part of the answer. Voters are more likely to use mail-in ballots than to show up at polling places, but the County Registrar of Voters still has to open and staff physical polls on Election Day. That makes up about two-thirds of the cost.

NBC 7’s Catherine Garcia and Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt break it down further — with the help of baked goods — in this edition of San Diego Explained.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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