Common Cause Calls Out State’s Misleading Statement on Costs of Hand-Marked Paper Ballots vs Electronic Ballot Marking Devices

In a misleading statement released yesterday, Georgia Secretary of State (SOS) Brad Raffensperger claimed that the cost of deploying a voting system relying on hand-marked paper ballots and ballot marking devices for disability access would exceed the cost of deploying only electronic ballot marking devices for every voting station.

In a memo accompanying the statement, the Secretary of State projected that over ten years the cost of paper ballots would be $207,455,000 and on the high-end cost is $224,045,000.  The analysis included a highly inflated cost per paper ballot of $.55 per ballot versus other known quotes of $.28. Inexplicably, the estimate also included the cost of purchasing epoll books which the state will be purchasing regardless of whether the state goes to hand-marked paper ballots or electronic ballot marking devices.

The Secretary of State compared the cost of purchasing paper ballots (and epoll books) to the estimated cost of $150,000,000 to purchase electronic ballot marking devices for every voting station in a precinct.

“Georgians deserve better than the misleading estimate provided by the secretary of state’s office to justify this purchase. We deserve the truth,” said Sara Henderson, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. This is like comparing the cost of a bicycle to an automobile and saying that the bicycle costs more because you fail to include all the maintenance, repair, part purchasing, and long-term costs associated with the car.”

“We have grave concerns that the Secretary of State has not been honest with the public with respect to the true long-term cost of purchasing electronic ballot marking devices for all voters. The Secretary of State needs to turn over to the public the full costs of purchasing electronic ballot marking devices for every voting station and maintaining them over a 10-year period. This will include but not be limited to long term software licensing fees, contracts for maintenance, contracts for programming, contracts for repair, storage costs, shipping costs, costs related replacing the machines as they wear out.”

“When the Secretary of State compared the initial outlay of $150 million to purchase the electronic ballot marking devices to the 10-year cost of hand-marked paper ballots he was comparing apples to watermelons. A complete evaluation of all the costs associated with each voting system over a ten-year period would surely show the long-term costs to the state and counties would be much higher than $150 million for electronic ballot marking devices.  Furthermore, if the state is concerned about burdening the county with costs of printing paper ballots, the state should assume those costs.”