Statement to the Election Commissioners of New York City
November 21, 2006
Good evening. Thank you for allowing me to speak before
you. My name is Christopher Marshall. I
am a biochemist by training with a doctoral degree from the Rockefeller
University here in NYC. Apart from
doing research, I have worked in finance, and I am currently the founder and
president of a start-up biotech company.
I am here -- as a concerned individual -- to present my position on the
choice between Paper Ballots & Optical Scanning and Direct Recording
Electronic voting systems that will be implemented in NYC as of 2007.
I am advocating the Paper Ballots & Optical Scanning
systems, because I believe it is a wiser choice to use a less finicky, well
established technology. Paper Ballots & Optical Scanning systems accomplish
as much as, or more than, the more sophisticated, but less reliable and secure
DRE machines. This is underscored by
experiences of voters and election officials in other states in the recent
In addition to serious concerns regarding transparency,
reliability, and security of DRE systems that others will surely expand on, I
would like to draw your attention to the cost issues surrounding equipment
acquisition, maintenance, replacement, and operation, and also to other costs,
such as the cost of potential litigation, that I believe should be considered
in this decision.
purchase cost of a system for the City of New York will be dependent on
the cost of the individual unit and the number of units that will be
needed. The number of units, that
will be required for fair and efficient elections, depends on many
factors, but primarily on how many voters each unit can serve. The unit cost of an Optical Scanner is
less than that of a DRE, and Optical Scanner units are estimated to serve
many more voters on a voting day.
DREs for the City of New York may cost between $105 and $135
million, whereas Optical Scanners and accessible ballot marking devices
may cost between $30 and $40 million – a 3- to 4-fold difference, with the
cost of PBOS between $65 and $105 million less, a savings between 65% and
75% - a great bargain.
DRE have expected life span of about 5-10 years, whereas PBOS units are
projected to remain in service between 15 and 20 years. Therefore, over time, we have another
cost differential between 50% and 400%, so that the equipment cost of
these machines may actually differ between 4.5- and 16-fold.
If this decision were up to
thrifty housekeepers, and if the two systems were otherwise even comparable
with regard to reliability, security, and transparency, we wouldn’t be having
these hearings, and you certainly wouldn’t need to hear the rest of my presentation. --
But there’s more.
- I have
not been able to find similar projections for maintenance costs in NYC,
but I would like to draw your attention to the Maryland example. In Maryland, DRE’s were purchased under
the assumption, vetted by their Board of Elections, that maintenance costs
of these machines would run approximately $850,000 a year. This turned out to be a gross
underestimate -- the actual cost turned out to be more than 10-times that
amount: $9 1/2 million. This and
other miscalculations badly damaged the credibility of the State’s Board
of Elections, and made it impossible for the General State Assembly to
make fiscally informed decisions.
This had significant ramifications in Maryland, that I’m sure we
all hope to avoid in our state.
due to the complexities of DREs that run secret software, and cannot
adequately be tended to by your regular poll-workers who mostly don’t have
higher degrees is computational systems, the need for private technicians
on election day must be considered as a real cost, as well.
If any Board members are interested, I’ll be happy to help
calculate the Net Present Value of the potential savings achievable over the
next 10 years by choosing a PBOS system over the alternative.
Thank you very much for listening.