Cost of Replacing Lever Voting Machines

Lever Replacement Costs: NYC Case Study

In May 2009, Teresa Hommel published a study, the first of its kind, on the cost of replacing New York City’s lever voting machines. To date, no other cost studies exist. Here are some highlights and a link to that study.

Under HAVA (the “Help America Vote Act”), $21M have been earmarked for NYC lever replacement. However, the new study shows:


Cost, year 1                                $27 to $44 million.
Cost, annual, years 2-5             $5 to $16 million.
Cost, annual, years 6+              $5 to $16 M + maintenance/replacement costs


NYC is eligible for additional HAVA funds for election-related uses, and may be able to spend some of it to cover these costs, however

  • Not all lever-replacement costs are eligible for HAVA funds. Our local taxes will pay for ineligible costs starting in the first year. (Please note, HAVA money is also  our tax money.)
  • All HAVA funds will be depleted in four years. Local taxes must pay all costs after that.
  • The Study’s cost estimates are low, including only those costs for which information could be obtained from published state or city documents.


Cost Considerations

  • In NYC, closing a firehouse saves under $2 million per year. Closing a library? Laying off a city employee? Cutting senior and school lunches? Closing community centers for kids? These cuts save a pittance. But people’s lives depend on their job and some services that NYC is cutting.
  • New voting equipment is NOT essential. Our lever machines were made to last 150 years with routine maintenance, and they are less than 50 years old. NYC has purchased the best “accessible” voting equipment made for voters with disabilities, and our voting technology – levers and accessible equipment – now meets all federal requirements.
  • New voting equipment will last MAYBE 10 years, and we will have to buy new equipment again.
  • Regardless of money, the lever voting machines are a superior technology for elections. No computer is as secure as a mechanical machine. Computers in our elections will mishandled due to lack of resources.

You can read more of Teresa Hommel’s analysis at Where’s the Paper.org

We thank Teresa for her work.

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