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Cost Comparison of Voting Equipment for New York State
Touchscreen DRE with VVPB Printer vs.
Precinct Based Optical Scan + Ballot Marking Device

A printable version of this page can be downloaded here

In addition to the information below, the following downloadable reports discuss cost issues of different voting systems:
Acquisition Cost Comparison of DRE vs. Optical Scan in New York
Paper Ballot Printing Costs
Comparing Annual Costs of DREs and Optical Scanners

Cost comparisons of PB/OS systems and DREs

Equipment needed
When comparing costs of replacing New York State's lever machines with either optical scan or DRE systems, it's vital to understand the following facts:

•  With DRE systems, each lever machine must be replaced by at least one DRE . In fact, it is likely that more than one DRE will be required per lever machine, due to the additional time it takes voters to vote on a DRE (possibly up to 15-20 minutes per voter).

•  With paper ballot/optical scan systems, each lever machine must be replaced by at least one privacy booth (which is simply a writing table and curtains to ensure voter privacy while marking their ballot). But, a single optical scanner can service 10 or more privacy booths.

Therefore with an optical scan system, most polling places in the state will need to purchase only one optical scanner and one ballot marking device , and a number of privacy booths equivalent to the current number of lever machines in that polling place.

However, with DRE systems all polling places will need to purchase at least one DRE for each of their current lever machines .

It should be apparent then, even before we analyze cost specifics, that this means a paper ballot/optical scan system will require less equipment to purchase, maintain, test, operate, and eventually, replace.

Cost estimate - polling place with ballot marking device and precinct-based optical scanner
The current estimate for the cost of a ballot marking device is $4,500. A similar estimate for a polling-place-based optical scanner is $5,000, and a similar estimate for a fold-up voting booth is $250.

For a polling place with 3 voting stations, the total capital cost would be:

(1) Ballot marking device $4,500
(1) Polling place optical scanner $5,000
(3) Fold-up voting booths $750

------- ­Total cost $10,250

Cost estimate - polling place with DRE voting machines + VVPB printers
The estimated cost of a typical DRE full face ballot voting machine (as required by New York State law) is about $8,000 per voting station.

For a polling place with 3 voting stations, the total capital cost would be:

(3) DRE voting machines $24,000

-------­ Total cost $24,000

In this case, with three machines per precinct, the DRE solution is more than twice as expensive as a solution using ballot marking devices and polling-place-based optical scanners, just in terms of initial capital outlay.

Polling places with more lever machines will see even greater savings:

Number of Lever Machines Per Precinct

Paper Ballot/Optical Scan Cost





















Note the dramatic cost increase per DRE machine compared to the systems using optical scanners. Why? Because each precinct needs only a single optical scanner and ballot marker, and must only add additional privacy booths at $250 each for each existing lever machine. But with DRE systems, each lever machine must be replaced by an $8000 DRE.

Maintenance costs
When you factor in the increased maintenance costs (because there are physically more units to maintain) and the increased costs for logic and accuracy tests, security audits, the larger number of poll workers needed to operate DRE polling places, etc., the DRE solution will likely prove even more expensive in operating costs.

Printing costs
This analysis does not include the cost of printing the optical scan ballots that are used in the "precinct-based optical scan + ballot marking device solution". However, neither does it include the costs of printing the VVPBs produced in the "DRE+VVPB-printer" solution. These are considered to be roughly comparable because both consume paper and ink (or toner). In fact, one can argue that the per-ballot printing costs for mass-produced optical scan paper ballots may be lower than the per-VVPB printing costs for individually-printed VVPBs.

Also keep in mind that any jurisdiction that deploys DREs must still continue to print paper ballots (e.g., optical scan ballots) to meet the needs of their absentee voters. So it is false to argue that a jurisdiction will avoid having to print any paper (e.g., optical scan) ballots if they deploy DREs with VVPB printers in their polling places. Regardless of what they do, jurisdictions will need to continue printing mass produced [optical scan] paper ballots for their absentee voters.

While deploying DREs with VVPB printers may reduce the number of such mass-produced paper ballots that need to be printed in advance of the election, its does not eliminate the need to print any. Thus, jurisdictions will still be faced with all of the costs of contracting for the printing of such paper ballots. Certain fixed costs are involved regardless of the number of ballots printed: the labor cost of designing and laying out the ballot, and the one-time printer setup charges.

Here is a downloadable document listing optical scan ballot printing costs for Michigan.

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