Are op-scan elections cheaper?

There is little systematic data (or research) on the costs of election administration, and while questions have arisen since 2000 about how much various voting technologies “cost” (both in terms of acquisition and long-term use), we just don’t have much research on these questions to draw upon to provide answers to these questions (see some early cost estimates in the 2001 Caltech/MIT Voting Technology report, “Voting: What Is, What Could Be.”) The only systematic research on this topic that I am aware of is being done by VTP graduate student Sarah Hill, who has compiled election administration finance data from California counties; her database is available for research use, and an excellent study of that data by Sarah is currently under peer review and hopefully will be published soon.

This dearth of research was what drew to my attention reports that New Mexico’s Secretary of State is requesting an additional $3 million to cover the costs associated with New Mexico’s 2006 transition to a optical scan paper ballot system (Associated Press):

Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron has requested an additional $3 million to help pay for last month’s elections.

That includes $1.3 million to print ballots, $560,000 for advertising, $88,000 to print the constitutional amendments and bond questions and $225,000 for supplies.

Vigil-Giron said most of the money would help pay for the state’s switch over to paper ballots.

Under a law enacted this year, all 33 counties in New Mexico switched from a patchwork of voting methods to a single paper ballot system.

Additional studies of the short- and long-term costs associated with all voting technologies are really needed … this report from New Mexico underlines the fact that many commonly-held assumptions about voting systems may not always be true.