Thursday, February 10, 2005

understanding the true costs of voting machines

Voting machines, we are told, "save money" over unreliable humans.

Ok, imagine I make to you this proposal:
In order to save money, we're going to spend millions of dollars on machines.
That will be used for one day.
Every few years.
Oh, and by the way, for all of the hundreds of days between each use, they will need to be stored. And you can't just stick them in a warehouse somewhere and forget about them. Because they must work perfectly, on that one day. Working perfectly means NO ONE has made unauthorized changes to them. And none of their systems has been damaged due to sitting in a freezing warehouse, or a leaky warehouse, or any kind of warehouse that doesn't keep them all nice and snugly protected from any possible harm.

So now I hope you're thinking: hmm, not so much with the saving money.

RTE News (Ireland): PAC discusses cost of storing e-vote machines

The ongoing cost of maintaining electronic voting machines was discussed again at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee today.

Questions were raised about the big variations in the cost of storing and insuring the machines in different parts of the country.

The total cost of maintaining the machines is likely to run to €1 million each year for the next 20 years.

Monday, February 07, 2005

E-voting unlikely across Australia

Not needed in cases where the ballot is simple, spokesman says.

Despite the recent decision in the U.S. to use printed records to improve the credibility of electronic voting, it seems unlikely that electronic voting will be used widespread in Australia, according to a spokesperson for the Australian Electoral Commission.


Tim Evans, the director of elections systems & Policy for the Australian Electoral Commission, does not believe that widespread electronic voting will be useful in Australia


"First of all, for electronic voting to spread throughout Australia, there would need to be an amendment to the Australian Commonwealth Elections Act. This will only happen if Parliament is persuaded that it would create advantages to voting, and the security of each vote would be maintained or improved.


Despite electronic voting trials being successful in the Australian Capitol Territory, Evans, believes that this is only because the region is different to the rest of Australia.

"ACT has a very complicated voting system. Many people cannot access many of the 100 voting stations in the region and the electoral process has complicated layers attached to it, so it takes a long time to count the votes. So electronic voting is useful for this region. However, there are over 8,000 polling stations in the rest of Australia, which are within easy access to populations.

"It would take a much bigger effort to transform 8,000 polling stations into electronic voting stations, than it took to build these systems in ACT.

from E-voting unlikely to spread through Australia
Image and Data Manager Online - Feb 7, 2005

Ireland does things right

The good news is that Ireland is handling things properly.
The bad news (for e-voting enthusiasts) is that when you handle things properly, it immediately becomes apparent that the real costs of electronic systems are very high.

To analyze them, store them, certify them for each election...

Compare this with paper. How much analysis do you need to trust the paper voting system?

The Sunday Times - Ireland
E-voting study costs spiral

An independent assessment of the electronic voting system has cost the state €640,000 in less than a year.

The Commission on Electronic Voting was set up last March to advise the government on the safety and accuracy of the system. It has run up a bill of €640,000 up until the end of last year and its final cost is likely to be substantially higher. The group is planning to hire experts to run extensive tests on the voting system — which could take nine months — before it will be able to determine if it is usable. The technical work is likely to be costly.

Computerised voting was set to be rolled out last June in the local and European elections but was withdrawn at the last minute amid concerns over its accuracy. The government was attacked for failing to assess the reliability of the €52m system fully before purchasing it.

The 6,200 electronic voting machines are now being stored in warehouses across the country at a cost so far of €660,000.

“The system is flawed and will always be — the government should cut its losses. Spending more and more money on it may not be a wise thing to do. It has already cost a fortune and it doesn’t make any sense to keep throwing money at it in the vain hope that they will be able to use it in the future,” said Joe McCarthy, a chartered engineer and a strong critic of electronic voting.
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