Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Voting machines versus ATMs

Whenever there’s a news story about the problems we’ve experienced with electronic voting machines, someone invariably makes a comment like “I go to an ATM at least once a week, and I’ve never had one give me the wrong amount of money. So why can’t we get these electronic voting machines to work as flawlessly?”

One important part of that answer is that we haven't spent sufficient amounts of money on purchasing and maintaining our voting machines. Under HAVA, Congress authorized $3.9 billion for the purchase of electronic voting machines and the creation of statewide voter registration databases, but only a fraction of that money has actually been distributed to the states.

On the other hand, commercial banks and other entities recognize that creating properly functioning electronic networks is expensive. According to the American Bankers Association, there were almost 400,000 ATMs in the United States in 2005. Each one cost between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on its features (i.e. dispensing cash, printing statements, accepting deposits, etc.). Moreover, annual ATM maintenance costs run between $12,000 and $15,000 per machine.

It is admittedly impossible to draw a direct comparison between the costs of ATMs and voting machines for many reasons, especially since voting machines wouldn't need nearly as much maintenance as ATMs. However, it is crucial that we examine the way the private banking industry has put in place such a highly functioning network; we must be similarly willing to invest more money in creating a secure and efficient voting system.

Read the testimony of our Executive Director Michael Waldman on voting machines before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Categories: General, Voting

No comments: