Croton-on-Hudson, New York
January 17, 2006
Peter Kosinski, Co-Executive Director
Stanley Zalen, Co-Executive Director
NYS Board of Elections
40 Steuben Street
Albany, NY 12207-2108
Dear Mr. Kosinski & Mr. Zalen:
At the hearing on HAVA implementation and voting machine regulations in Putnam County on January 12th, I spoke extemporaneously at the end of the hearing. A copy of that testimony from my scribbled notes is attached.
In response to my comments, Peter Kosinski posed a question, the answer to which I was not at that time able to document. I had suggested that if vendors are allowed simply to submit the equipment of their own choice, then they will not submit optical scan equipment because it is not as profitable for them.
Attached is a comparative breakdown of costs between optical scan and DRE systems. Clearly, DRE systems are more expensive to purchase and to maintain. Unless one assumes that the profit margins on DRE systems are vastly lower per dollar collected than those for optical scan, I stand by my deduction that vendors stand to make far more profit from DRE systems.
Since this is information researched and prepared by Bo Lipari and New Yorkers for Verified Voting, I am assuming you have already seen this comparative material. Therefore I sought further information from an additional source, which I will describe below.
In addition to this question, Mr. Kosinski asked how many ballots a precinct-based optical scanner could handle, and he further stated that he had heard that they could handle fewer ballots than DRE systems. I found this assertion implausible and sought independent verification of the information by calling the Supervisor of Elections of Leon County, Florida, where I had personally observed precinct-based optical scan equipment in use during the November 2004 elections. Mr. Ion Sancho, the Supervisor of Elections, spoke to me at some length about his experience with precinct-based optical scan equipment over the past 12 years.
Mr. Sancho was unequivocal in his opinion that Optical Scan is far superior to DRE equipment on all counts – accuracy, easy of use, speed, accountability, and cost. Furthermore, he reported that he has only one optical scan computer in each of his voting precincts, that he has as many as 20 voting stations, and that he has never “maxed out” the capacity of the Optical Scan equipment.
Mr. Sancho has had extensive experience with the vendors of voting equipment and was also unequivocal in his assessment that the vendors do not want to sell Optical Scan because it is much less profitable. Above and beyond the initial cost, he cited ongoing service costs. DRE service costs in Florida have run $200 per unit per year, whereas his cost for all of Leon County is only $6,000 per year. (Although I did not get the exact number of optical scan machines he has, it is substantially more than 30.)
Rather than try to recap our conversation in its entirety, I suggest that you call Mr. Sancho yourselves. He was most gracious, enormously knowledgeable, and readily agreed to speak with anyone from New York who would like more information on the experience he has had with his equipment.
Remarks made on January 17, 2006 (1 page)
Comparative costs of DRE and PBOS equipment
(faxed pages from http://nyvv.org/reports/AcquisitionCostDREvOptScanNYS.pdf)
Remarks by Ann Harbeson
NYS Board of Elections Hearing
January 12, 2006
I am responding to something I think I have heard here today that troubles me. You have said that you are tasked to certify both DRE and Optical Scan, but Mr. Zalen has said, twice, that “we will run on the systems that ‘come through the door.’ “
If you wait for vendors to offer what they want to offer, then you will see no optical scan paper ballot systems. Not one. None. Nada. The vendor who told Assemblymember Sandy Galef “that NY is a DRE state” will have foretold the future. It is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why? Simple. Vendors will get a lot richer with DREs and they will do so at our expense. Why would they offer optical scan if you don’t force them to do so? What possible motivation do they have if they will make far less money?
You have a fiduciary responsibility to us, and yourselves, the taxpayers of New York, as well as a responsibility to preserve the integrity of our vote.
So the statement I am waiting for today is this: “We pledge to make absolutely sure that paper ballot optical scan systems are submitted for certification even if we have to take the initiative to make it happen.”
Several speakers have shown you the way – refuse to accept DREs from vendors who manufacture both unless they do a credible job of submitting both types of systems.
I would like to leave you with one more thought on a somewhat different issue, and one which may not even be in your purview. New York has legislated a paper trail – which is great. But if recounts are difficult to obtain, then the paper trail will be meaningless.
Computer Consultant and New York Voter