E-voting: how not to save money with IT

White-papers are full of case studies on how the judicious use of information technology can help organizations achieve more with fewer resources. Unfortunately for the state of Maryland, their brief experiment with electronic voting and Diebold touchscreen devices will not be one of them. My friend Kim Zetter has recently published a new article over at the Threat Level blog about the aftermath of the Maryland debacle. Sanity prevailed after a brief experiment with touch-screen voting that basically catalyzed the movement against direct recording electronic (DRE) machines and catapulted Diebold into the national limelight as the #1 enemy of fair elections. The state has gone back to optical scan machines, while the expensive equipment gathers dust but Diebold continues to collect on the maintenance contracts for equipment that is only trustworthy enough for electing the high-school mascot.

One of the interesting points in the article is that the machines are high maintenance. Quoting Rebecca Wilson of the Maryland based advocacy group SaveOurVotes.Org:

“They take up huge amounts of warehouse space in warehouses that need to be air-conditioned,” she continues. “They have to recharge the batteries every six months. And (yet) we only haul them out about once a year (for elections).”

According to their estimates, the state will have spent close to $100M of taxpayer money by the the time the dust settles. This is on average an increase of over 150% percent per voter across the board. For certain sparsely populated counties, it is close to an order of magnitude higher. Here is one IT deployment aspiring MBA students will not be reading about in their case-studies on cost cutting.


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