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New Voting Systems for New York - Long Lines and High Cost PDF  | Print |  Email
By William Edelstein, Board of Directors, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
November 14, 2006

Click Here to Download New Torkers for Verified Voting's Full Report Report

 

As New York decides on new voting systems, one key question is this — how many voters can be served by each voting machine? This number is critical in order to estimate costs as well as to avoid long lines for voters. The New York City Board of Elections recently released a report saying that New York should replace each lever machine by 1 full-face-ballot computer DRE voting machine with voter verified paper trail.

 

Assuming that each voter will take 3.25 minutes to vote, they calculate that 277 voters can vote on each DRE in a 15 hour Election Day. However, the report neglects the effect of non-uniform voter arrivals, DRE outages and extra time needed by voters using special accessibility aids on DREs. We have applied queuing theory, the mathematical study of waiting lines, to carry out computer simulations of realistic elections. We use a scenario with more voters arriving at peak times—early morning, lunch and early evening hours—as is typical during elections. According to our calculations, a ratio of 277 voters per DRE would create unacceptable wait times of 1 hour or longer. Recent elections using DREs have produced extremely long lines in many places around the country, causing would-be voters to leave, thereby disenfranchising them.

 

In order to guarantee reasonably short wait times—even without taking into account DRE outages and the use of DRE special voting aids—our results indicate that each DRE in New York should be allocated to no more than 150 voters, which means replacing each lever machine by 3 DREs. But the acquisition and maintenance cost of this many electronic voting machines would be excessive. In contrast, precinct based, paper ballot optical scan systems use simple, inexpensive marking booths that are the equivalent choke points to DREs. These paper ballot scan systems can be easily and economically configured to eliminate lines.

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