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Operating Cost Comparison
for Different Types of Voting Systems
Conduct a cost comparisons in your state and let us know about it!
Rosemarie Myerson, a voter in Sarasota County, took the initiative to study the operating expenses of her county's elections office for a period of 6 years and compare those costs with the operating costs of the elections office in her neighboring county, Manatee.

The results of her study are startling. She has generously allowed VotersUnite! to post her report and addendum. She has also provided guidelines you can use to replicate her study and a sample request for information.

Ms. Myerson's article
in the Herald Tribune
Similar study of
4 counties in NC

Comparison of Operating Costs - Addendum

Rosemarie Myerson

March 20, 2005

Comparison of
Operating Costs

Original Report

Purchase Cost Differences Between Optical Scanners and Touch Screens

For any county, the total purchase cost for touch screens and optical scanner must be very different because of the difference in the number of machines needed per precinct. Optical scanners require only one machine per precinct. Each voter is given his own paper ballot and votes in a cubicle by hand coloring the bubbles on the ballot. Voters feed their ballot into the optical scanner. If they stand in a single line, it is estimated that it takes one voter ten seconds to cast his ballot; so one optical scanner can handle 360 voters per hour. With touch screens each voter needs his own machine; we estimate that the average voter takes three minutes to make his choices. This means 20 voters can cast their vote per machine per hour. On the basis of these estimates, a precinct needs 18 touch screens to equal optical scanner's rate of 360 votes per hour.

Cost Per Registered Voter Per Year to Run Office with Different Voting Techniques

With regard to yearly expenditures of the Supervisor of Elections' office with different types of machines, we used the last six year's data from Sarasota County and the last three years for Manatee County, two neighboring counties in Florida. Since what is included as yearly expenses for running an elections office may vary throughout a state or in different states, more studies are needed to show how percentage differentials in other counties differ for the two types of voting machines. Touch screens require the use of ten to twenty more machines per precinct than do optical scanners; therefore it is logical that there will be large differences in annual operating, personnel, and investment costs for each type of voting machine.

The chart below shows that with touch screens, Sarasota County's Supervisor of Elections' average annual total yearly expenditures for the last three years was $12.41 per registered voter. For punch cards Sarasota's average annual total yearly expenditures was $8.22 for years 1999 - 2001. Using optical scanners, Manatee County's last three years average annual expenditures including ballots at 20 cents a piece was $7.56. Touch screens cost Sarasota County $4.85 more per year per registered voter than did optical scanners in Manatee. A county' annual expenditures might be 64.1% higher per year if they chose to purchase touch screens.

Comparison of Election Cost per Registered Voter
Manatee v Sarasota by Year
CountyYearTotal CostsReg
CountyYearTotal CostsReg

Ms. Myerson is a retired psycholinguist. Her field of interest was child acquisition of language and adult language loss due to brain lesion. Her research focused on language and the brain. She was employed at the VA Hospital in Boston and the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. She earned her Masters Degree at Harvard University Department of Linguistics and her Doctorate from Harvard University Department of Education. She now lives in Longboat Key Florida and first became concerned about the problems with electronic voting after reading the 2001 report from CalTech/MIT.

Democracy is not something you believe in
or a place to hang your hat,
but it's something you do.
You participate.
If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.
~ Abbie Hoffman

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