Voting Machines: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?

Posted on November 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Still wondering who won Connecticut’s disputed gubernatorial race? It appears to be Democrat Dan Malloy, now that Republican rival Tom Foley has finally decided to concede six days after the election.

The primary reason for the delay was a significant amount of confusion regarding a shortage of paper ballots in Bridgeport, where a mere 21,000 sheets were purchased for 69,000 registered voters. By low-balling the purchase quantity, Bridgeport officials generated a savings of 50 cents to 1 dollar per ballot, but they threw the entire electoral process into a state of chaos when more citizens than expected actually appeared at the polls.

Most Connecticut voters didn’t use paper ballots until 2007, when the Nutmeg State discarded its inexpensive, clunky, and yet fully functional mechanical voting machines and spent more than $16 million on (supposedly) more reliable optical scanning devices. The upgrade was required by federal law; it was motivated by a desire to avoid the very kind of electoral controversy that plagued Florida in 2000 and that struck Connecticut this year.

In other words, to avoid the very type of controversy that tainted last week’s election, Connecticut eliminated a simple, cheap, and reliable approach for a far more expensive and complex one. And yet, by skimping on paper ballot purchases, the city of Bridgeport rendered their new and costly optical scanning machines completely useless.

Incidentally, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has strenuously denied that his city’s ballot purchase decision was driven by cost control considerations. However, according to the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport’s Democratic and Republican Registrars of Voters each confirmed that cost was indeed a factor in the low-balled print order.

Contributed by Michael Kraten, PhD, CPA, Accounting Professor at Providence College and President of Enterprise Mgt. Corp. http://aqpq.org

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