Statement before the Joint Hearing of the Committee on Governmental Operations and the Committee on Technology in Government of the New York City Council
January 29, 2007
Paper ballots and associated costs
Thank you for holding this hearing.
My name is Marge Acosta. I reside in Suffolk County. As an activist for paper ballots and optical scanners, I’m providing this statement to the Committees because NYC's decision affects every other county, and I am counting on you to pass Resolution 131 which will influence my county to make the right decision.
I’m a member of the Huntington League of Women Voters and the Suffolk representative for New Yorkers for Verified Voting. As such, I have done original research on paper ballots and printing costs, and am happy to present my findings.
Price of printed ballots need not be high
I have heard Executive Director Ravitz of the New York City Board of Elections quoted as saying that because NYC ballots must be in four languages, the cost would be very high. Since, with PBOS systems, poll site voters would have ballot-marking devices to translate English ballots into various different languages, I’m assuming Mr. Ravitz is speaking about absentee and provisional ballots. Happily I have found that high prices are not the case.
After verifying that it complies with all the current NY laws and regulations, I used a NYC absentee ballot from the November 8, 2005 Election as a sample to obtain several estimates. I chose this ballot because the races and directions are written in three different languages – English, Spanish and Chinese -- and because it has several long proposals. It is 8.75 x 14 inches and was converted to 8.5 x 14 inches to accommodate all scanners submitted.
With each request for estimates, I gave the specifications for Suffolk County: 1 million ballots with 1047 different ballot styles and for NYC: 4 million ballots with about 6000 different ballot styles. I asked that the paper quality be at least 80-weight and that the cost of a perforated numbered stub for each ballot be included.
Dayton Legal Blank quoted $.29 per ballot using Suffolk’s requirements. They gave me an average price of $.32 per ballot for other counties, depending on the variation and number of ballots being ordered. I also received a quote from Print Comm: $.14 each for Suffolk ballots and $.155 per ballot for NYC.
I have submitted this information and copies of the written estimates to the New York City Board of Elections. Three of the estimates accompany this testimony.
An alternative to printed ballots
There are alternatives for cheaper ballots, such as county-level digital printers that print scannable ballots, which New Yorkers for Verified Voting will be reporting on soon.
Cost of storing paper ballots
Mr. Ravitz has also alluded to the storage of ballots as a significant problem with PBOS systems. In my contact with the Boston Board of Elections, I found out that they stored the ballots for the entire City of Boston from the 2004 presidential general election in less than 5 postal bins measuring 3.5 x 2 feet x 6 feet high each. Each bin held about 37 to 40 thousand ballot (272,800 Boston voters at 69% turnout). Each container requires about the same floor space as a full-face DRE.
If NYC had a 75% turnout – about 3 million voters – all the ballots could be placed in less than 80 similar containers, each the size of a DRE. Even with one-to-one replacement, lever machines to DREs, NYC would have to store over 7000 DREs (NYC now stocks 7745 lever machines.) Somehow the thought of having to find ballot storage room equivalent to 80 DREs seems trivial, especially since a PBOS system requires much less storage space for scanners and ballot markers, because you would need fewer units of equipment and the units are much smaller than DREs.
I’m also submitting an article describing a study by Professor Theodore Allen of Ohio State University. After seeing firsthand that in 2004, voters in Franklin County, Ohio, had to wait five hours to cast a ballot, he questioned the haphazard way in which DREs are bought and distributed. Later, Ohio spent millions of dollars implementing a new ratio of one DRE for every 175 registered voters only to have some jurisdictions, like Cleveland, switching to PBOS when they found the DREs and their paper trails to be unreliable.
Let’s capitalize on the experience of others and not make the same mistakes. I urge the New York City Council to pass Resolution 131, to urge the New York City Board of Elections to choose a paper ballot-optical scan system when you have to replace your lever voting machines. Your decision will influence the decision of my county.