Town Considers All Paper, No Scanners

Easton Courier, Town considers paper ballots for referendums; Would likely save money due to cost of scanner ballots: <read>

[Easton Connecticut] is looking into using paper ballots for the upcoming budget referendums to save money.

The two registrars of voters, Republican Eunice K. Hanson and Democrat Nick Soares, plan to watch how the process of using paper ballots works in Monroe when that town has its budget referendum April 7.

The biggest question is how long it would take to count the paper ballots…

It costs the town at least $2,800 to hold a referendum. The major expenses are the special ballots needed for the new optical scanner voting machines and hourly pay for poll workers. The polls are open 14 hours for elections.

The ballots are 45 cents each. “That’s very costly,” Soares said, “so the biggest savings would be in the ballots….

He said hes unsure if paper ballots will save money because of the time needed to hand-count the ballots. “The new machines are quick” Soares said.

Eunice Hanson agreed. “It gives you instant results,” she said of the optical scanning devices that were supplied by the state as a way to modernize the election process. “They’re actually kind of cool. We’ve gotten used to them.”

Susan Koneff, Monroe’s Democratic registrar of voters, said paper ballots are cheaper and simpler. She said referendum results often are known within 25 minutes after the polls close.

“It’s a very efficient way to do a referendum,” Koneff said.

Koneff said the average turnout for a budget referendum in Monroe is from 3,000 to 3,500 voters. The town has about 12,000 registered voters and four polling places, she said…

Easton has 5,200 registered voters and one polling place, Samuel Staples Elementary School. While turnout obviously varies for referendums depending on the contentiousness of the issues involved, Soares said 2,500 to 2,600 people usually vote.

The town has to print a ballot for everyone in town just in case the turnout is exceptional. Extras also are needed for spoilage and, with budget referendums, for Easton property owners who live out of town.

We recommend against all paper. Audits have shown that Connecticut election officials have difficulty counting even a few hundred ballots accurately <Most recent audit report statistics>.  We also remember a very frustrating day observing the Easton election officials attempting to accurately count ballots for the audit after the November 2007 Municipal Election.

Although we disagree, election officials across Connecticut repeatedly complain that counting 10% of the ballots in audits will break the bank while they express a lack of confidence in their ability to count accurately.  It is refreshing to hear agreements that counting is not that costly.  However, we would rather see an optical scan count that can be compared to a manual count.  Counting at night after the polls close, after a 14 hour day, is much more difficult than counting for a audit after several days rest.  In addition an audit is closely observable by the public.

One final point.  We believe there is no requirment that ballots be printed for 100% of the voters in an election. An attempt to require 100% printing in law was not passed when proposed in the 2008 legislative session.


4 responses to “Town Considers All Paper, No Scanners”

  1. mattw

    The problem is that towns aren’t going to get the HAVA money for ballot printing and machine programming for this year’s election — a fact which they learned only very recently, forcing every Registrar to scramble like crazy for extra dollars in this year’s budget. Word is that SEEC is investigating the SOTS office for how that money was distributed.

  2. George Cody

    It warms my heart to see you taking a stand against hand counts standing alone. Now if only we could extend that wisdom to recounts…

    Seriously, Referrenda are unique. Ther is usually one question on the ballot with only a yes or no option. Counting is accordingly greatly simplified. Program cards are expensive, as are the ballots. Lhs and the ballot printers should reduce their prices based on bulk printing of common ballots and universal yes/no programming.

    Having said that, I would personally opt for tabulator use in all elections. All elections should be run the same way with a standard appearing ballot

  3. George Cody

    I just saw my comments are awaiting moderation…Are you suggesting that my comments are immoderate?…

  4. Luther Weeks

    Perhaps we agree on recounts. I believe they should be all by hand and then compared to the scanners original count. As we saw in Minnesota, counting carefully by hand can be expected to change the result. In the case of Minnesota it was by a relatively small amount that changed the election result in a very close election. In fact, in Minnesota the actual counting of the ballots by hand was a very small part of the recount process, perhaps 20% of the actual inspection and counting, and perhaps 1 day out of the 40+ days from the start of the count till the end of the process.

    I have always been in favor of optical scan, followed by a sufficient hand audit. Those who favor all paper have either a) forgotten the history of stealing elections via paper in the U.S. which brought us lever machines and punch cards; or b) have an overly idealistic view that after a 14 hour day election officials or a new crew of election officials can count the ballots immediately after the polls close in every district or precinct in the country.

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