Optical Scanner Talking Points
When considering the proposed advantages and disadvantages of touchscreen/pushbutton voting machines (DREs) with precinct based optical scan systems, it is useful to look at actual experiences in other states. Increasingly, reports are coming to light which show that two problems consistently plague DRE voting systems:
Comparisons of the cost of running elections with DREs vs. Optical Scanners have been done in several states. These demonstrate that it is less expensive use scanners than DREs, even including the cost of printing paper ballots. Two studies are cited below.
One factor that explains why having touchscreens cost so much more than optical scanners is because the county has to own and maintain so many more machines. Another is that the DREs require more maintenance and ongoing technical support from vendors.
Florida Study - By Dr. Rosemarie Myerson and Richard Myerson
A comparison of Total Annual Expenditures 0f 32 Florida Counties Using DREs vs. Optical Scanners.
The results from this study show that counties which bought DREs increased their annual election expenditures by 40.4% over the costs of counties using optical scanners.
North Carolina Study - The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting
This is an analysis of the annual expenditures of the Directors of Elections Offices of four large North Carolina Counties for the fiscal years 1999 through 2004.
The analysis compared the expenditures of counties using Optical Scan equipment to counties using DRE equipment. Two optical scan counties, Durham and Wake, were compared to two counties that use DRE equipment, Guilford and Mecklenburg.
This report shows the annual cost that these counties spent per registered voter in each of the six years. None of the counties made changes in voting equipment during the 6 year period studied.
The comparison shows that the counties using DREs spent approximately 1.5 times as much per voter each year as those using optical scanners.
Optical Scanners are a mature technology that has been used in elections for many years. This is a big advantage compared to newer DREs maintenance and replacement costs. In a survey conducted of states using optical scanners, states reported low failure rates, low maintenance costs and long lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Oklahoma has been using the same scanners for 14 years.
After DREs lost hundreds of votes in recent elections, the Miami Dade County Supervisor of Elections issued a report recommending that Miami Dade abandon its $24.5 million touchscreen voting system and replace them with paper ballots with optical scanners.
On the Cost of DRE Systems:
A non-partisan report released on October 20, 2005 on the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems, issued by the GAO confirms the seriousness of problems reported by members of the Election Integrity community. This important document verifies the many concerns voting rights activists have raised about DREs.
GAO found that:
In the Republic of Ireland the government spent nearly $60 million on Liberty/PowerVote DREs that were intended to be used for the June, 2004 local and European Parliament elections.
An Independent Commission on Electronic Voting investigated this system and said it could not recommend its use because of security and accuracy concerns, whereupon it was not used for that election.
Presently, the Irish government says it is “most unlikely” that these systems will be used for the 2007 general election. In fact, they may not be used for several years.
The machines are now being stored at an annual expense of over $800,000.