By John Gideon on 9/20/2006, 6:39pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

Tonight Kitty and Lou discuss the cost of e-voting to the taxpayers. The announcement of a new report from the Brennan Center is welcome.

The text-transcript of tonight's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full...

DOBBS: We've been reporting here extensively for more than a year on the threat posed by electronic voting machines to the integrity of our democracy. These voting machines, e-voting machines, have proved to be both unreliable and susceptible, vulnerable to fraud. They're also placing huge financial burdens on states and their taxpayers.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In recent Maryland elections, electronic voting was a disaster. But even before that debacle, Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich complained in a letter to the state Board of Elections about the unreliability and the cost of electronic voting systems, writing, quote, "I no longer have confidence in the State Board of Elections' ability to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2006."

The costs listed in the letter are so outrageous, they look like a misprint. In 2001, the state estimated maintenance costs for voting systems would be $858,000 in 2006. But now State Board has requested $9.5 million, a 1,000 percent increase. Electronic voting companies sell licensed software upgrades, but most counties don't have the expertise to do it themselves.

LAWRENCE NORDEN, NYU BRENNAN CENTER: They have to pay the vendor to take care of the machine. And the vendor essentially has a monopoly, in that case, on programming. The vendor is the only one that has the code for the system, and they charge a lot per machine.

PILGRIM: NYU's Brennan Center will release a report in two weeks, but advanced copies provided to this broadcast estimate $250 to $1, 500 per machine, per election for programming, and $100 to $250 per machine for maintenance.

In Arkansas, 51 of the 75 counties use electronic voting machines. The director of the State Board of Elections says some of the counties are surprised at the cost.

SUSIE STORMES, DIR., ARK. BOARD OF ELECTION COMM.: It's going to require additional state dollars and the counties are going to have to appropriate additional monies to cover the continuing cost of conducting elections using this advanced technology.

PILGRIM: Costs that will be paid for by taxpayers with every new election.


(on camera): Now the Brennan Center is going cost calculator every legislator can access. And it calculates all the hidden costs that aren't in the initial sticker price.

DOBBS: This, frankly, smells to high heaven. You've got counties and states paying ten times as much for an election because of these machines, and having really terrible vulnerability to fraud. The training in many cases, as you've documented in your reporting, inadequate. I mean, this is just nuts.

PILGRIM: It's very outrageous. And these maintenance costs are huge.

DOBBS: What are the odds that we're going to see governors step in here and secretaries of state, Congress, this president --- and Lord, we're sitting here so close to these elections --- to do something to ensure the integrity of these elections?

PILGRIM: It is very tight, and there is some push back. Governor Ehrlich has been very, very vocal about it, but in some places it's just being overlooked.

DOBBS: That's a shame. Each of these politicians, certainly good at talking about it. They don't seem to be wanting to take much action.

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