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Voting System Cost Studies and Reports

Cost Studies and Reports

The following studies and reports are listed in reverse chronological order.
(All highlighting is in the original documents.)

Report Excerpt

Lever Replacement Costs: Case Study of a Small New York County (County X). By Ellen Theisen and Teresa Hommel. July 24, 2009. Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds will not cover County X’s first-year costs of replacing levers. Costs will be at least $293,886 more than the county’s HAVA §102 funds designated for replacing levers. The shortfall will nearly deplete the county’s HAVA §101 and §251 funds of $333,733 that are intended for meeting HAVA requirements and for making election-administration improvements (such as ensuring ADA compliance).

Lever Replacement Costs: New York City Case Study. By Ellen Theisen and Teresa Hommel. July 20, 2009. The costs of replacing lever voting machines with electronic machines will be enormous. The immediate costs – hardware, software, licenses – will rapidly deplete the City's HAVA funds.

The associated costs, which continue from year to year – training, printing paper ballots, preelection testing, auditing elections, storage, inventory management, new personnel, and new procedures – have not yet been fully identified. Many, perhaps most, of them are not eligible for HAVA funds.

Even excepting the unknown costs, it is clear that the cost of lever replacement will be a heavy burden borne by City taxpayers, not only in the first year, but also in each subsequent year.

The Cost of E-Voting. Wired Blog. By Kim Zetter. April 04, 2008. A report on the SaveOurVotes study. SaveOurVotes, a voting integrity group in Maryland, decided to see if the 19,000 touch-screen machines their state purchased really did save money. The results aren't really a surprise -- the machines are wildly more expensive than anyone anticipated. But just how expensive they are makes their analysis mandatory reading for any legislators and state or county budget committees that approve voting equipment purchases.

Cost Analysis of Maryland’s Electronic Voting System. By SaveOurVotes. February 2008. Since converting to a statewide electronic touch-screen voting system, Maryland’s election costs have soared. We now spend nearly 10 times as much to conduct our elections as we did just 7 years ago.

Costs of Internet Voting for Military and Overseas Voters in WA: One Vendor’s Estimate. By Ellen Theisen. February 25, 2009. After examining this [vendor's "UOCAVA Voter Scoping Strategy"] document, I would like to point out two important considerations:

1. The cost for each voter that might be assisted by this program would be significantly greater than paying to have them FedEx their ballots back to the counties or possibly even hiring a state-commissioned courier to collect the ballots. The excess cost might be as high as $500 per year per voter.

2. It is almost certain that the taxpayers of this state will end up paying for the on-going annual fees (which could be $4M or higher), and it is highly likely they will end up paying for much of the development costs (estimated to be between $2.5 and $4.4M). Thus, this bill is an unfunded mandate.

The Machinery of Democracy: Voting System Security, Accessibility, Usability, and Cost. The Brennan Center for Justice Voting Technology Assessment Project. October 2006. See page 127 for the Cost analysis. However, initial costs of information technology systems like voting machines are generally only a small portion of their total, life-span cost. The life-span costs include the purchase and use of consumables like ballots, paper, and ink, as well as “costs associated with operations, maintenance, upgrades and training.” In fact, “within a few years of initial purchase, many voting system jurisdictions have found that other nonprocurement expenditures exceed the initial purchase cost [of voting systems].” [Both quotes from Richard Celeste et al., Eds. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING SYSTEMS 97 (The National Academies Press 2005)]

Touchscreen Voting Increases Election Costs in Florida. Report on a Survey of Changes in Total Annual Expenditures for Florida Counties Before and After Purchase of Touch Screens: A Comparison of Total Annual Expenditures for Touch Screens and Optical Scanners. By Dr. Rosemarie Myerson and Richard Myerson. December 2005. The results from this study show that a county’s buying touchscreens will increase their annual expenditures by 57.3%. Owning optical scanners should increase their expected annual costs 16.9%. … One factor that may explain why having touchscreens cost so much more than optical scanners is because the county has to own and maintain so many more machines.

"Are voter-verified paper ballots cost-effective?" A summary by Verified Voting Foundation. September 16th, 2005. Florida’s Miami-Dade County has learned that DRE systems incorporate many hidden costs – so much so that they are currently considering scrapping their $24.5 million investment in DREs in favor of the more cost-effective and reliable optical scan voting system. Wyoming’s Secretary of State noted his concern in a letter to his legislature about the many hidden costs he had learned were involved with obtaining new electronic systems. And Maryland’s Governor was stunned to see initial DRE purchase costs balloon 78% over estimate, and annual maintenance costs skyrocket over 1000% (yes, one thousand) in just four years.

Report from the Election Supervisor, Miami-Dade County, Florida. By Lester Sola. May 2005. Completing the conversion to an optical scan system would likely bring appreciable benefits with relatively modest incremental effort and expense. The lower operating costs, coupled with the elimination of future capital and maintenance expenses associated with the current touch screen system, would allow the County to recover the estimated purchase price of $9.4 million to $12.3 million within a few election cycles. In fact, based on the initial analysis the County could save more than $13.21 million over five years.

Optical Vote Scan Machines Cheaper, More Accurate, Group Says. A report on the NYVV study by Jarrett Carroll, Legislative Gazette. April 20th, 2005. According to the report released by the voting advocacy group, New York is estimated to save over $100 million through the purchase of optical scanners over DRE touch screen machines. The group also contends that maintenance, transportation and storage costs are all substantially lower than the DRE voting machines, which will save New York even more money in the future.

The report says the minimum life for an optical scan machine is 15 years whereas the DRE lifetime is only five years because of fragile components that are only warranted for five years.

Analysis of Acquisition Costs of DRE and Precinct Based Optical Scan Voting Equipment for New York State. By New Yorkers for Verified Voting. April 2005 Results
Total acquisition costs for New York State:
DRE system: $230,473,000
Optical Scan: $114,423,640
Cost Savings of Precinct Based Optical Scan Voting System: $116,049,360

Options for Replacing Connecticut’s Voting Machines: A Cost Analysis. Michael J. Fischer, TrueVoteCT March 12, 2005. The three options considered are: (1) An all-DRE system that replaces all lever machines with accessible DRE machines. (2) A mixed system that puts one accessible DRE machine in each voting district and replaces the lever machines with precinct count optical scan systems. (3) An all-optical scan system that replaces the lever machines with precinct count optical scan systems and provides accessibility through the use of ballot marking devices. For each system, the amount of equipment required to meet the needs of the 169 towns and the purchase costs are estimated.

Table 1: Cost summary for three voting machine options (amounts in thousands).[Only total costs are reproduced below.]
Option 1: All DRE 42,427
Option 2: Mixed 24,007
Option 3: All OpScan 24,098

Operating Cost Comparison for Different Types of NC Voting Systems. Optical Scanners in Wake and Durham Counties, and Direct Record Electronic Voting Machines in Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties. By North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting. The NC Coalition for Verified Voting, in 2005 - completed a study of annual expenditures of the election departments of four North Carolina counties. We found that the cost of using touch screen voting or direct recording machines in Guilford and Mecklenburg county was about 30-40% higher than the cost of using optical scan equipment in Wake and Durham county. This means that not only are touch screens more expensive to acquire, they are also more expensive to operate year after year.

Voting: What Is, What Could Be. California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Voting Technology Project, July 2001. Acquisition costs for purchasing new voting equipment are $18–$25/voter for touchscreen systems and $8–10 for in-precinct optical scanning equipment.

... A nation-wide upgrade to touchscreen DREs would cost up to $2.6 billion; a complete upgrade to scanners would cost up to $1 billion.

Summaries and Links to Additional Information

Cost Information about Voting Systems. A summary by VotersUnite.Org. July 2005.

Voting Technology Costs and Considerations. Verified Voting Foundation. A summary including links to many additional reports and news articles.


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