Cost Of Touch Screens (Up To 8x The Cost of Op Scan)

Kim Zetter covers the costs of touch screens in Maryland in the Wired article, The Cost of E-Voting, <read>

We are proud of our support of optical scan for Connecticut. In addition to being safer and more auditable, they cost Connecticut about 1/2 as much to purchase and are even more economical to maintain and audit. In the recent statewide hearings we heard complaints from registrars of the costs of optical scan, which are much less than we would have hand with touch screens.

Also note that it is Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who is responsible for delaying the Holt Emergency bill H.R. 5036 and insisting it pay for adding paper trials to touch screens. (Although we strongly support H.R 5036, we would much prefer it pay only for optical scan equipment). Note also that MD will be converting to optical scan machines in 2010 and paying again.

Now for what we are missing:

Maryland uses one system statewide — touch-screen machines made by Diebold Election Systems — which it purchased in batches in 2002 and 2003. A loan of about $67 million was taken out from the state treasury to pay Diebold for the machines, which counties are still paying off. They’ll continue to pay for the machines through 2014, even though the state has since decided to scrap the touch-screen machines, due to security concerns, and change to optical-scan machines by 2010…

Nonetheless, according to SaveOurVotes’ figures, by the end of the presidential election this year, Maryland will have spent more than $97.5 million on the machines it’s abandoning, but only about half of that can be attributed to the actual cost of purchasing the machines.

At least $44 million of it went to Diebold just for operation and maintenance of the machines, which covered repairs (the cost of which increases as machines age), storage of the machines as well as programming, testing and transporting them to precincts on election days. In the case of transportation, the state contracts with Diebold to deliver the machines from warehouses, but Diebold doesn’t do the deliveries itself; instead it subcontracts the service to other vendors (see this story about one of the delivery companies Diebold hired whose owner is the former chair of Maryland’s state Republican Party…

SaveOurVotes examined those counties and compared the cost of the optical-scan equipment they previously used to the touch-screen machines they were forced to buy. The cost for most counties in this category increased 179 percent per voter on average. In at least one county, the cost increased 866 percent per voter — from a total cost of about $22,000 in 2001 to $266,000 in 2007.

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