The Board of Elections is pushing a $6.8 million plan to turn old voter machines into voter information kiosks, but the chair of the City Council committee overseeing the agency dismissed the scheme as too costly.
The machines, costing $4500 a piece, would transform the old lever machines into massive computers where poll workers could check in for work, voters could get directions to their poll sites, and election results could be transmitted at the end of the night. But Councilman Ben Kallos, chair of the Governmental Operations committee, questioned the need for the pricey gizmos when simpler devices could do the same job.
“At the end of the day its probably not necessary, especially at the price tag,” he said.
BOE executive director Michael Ryan said the kiosks are better than cheaper technology like iPads because the agency would not have to shell out for as many pricy wireless contracts.
“While we may be spending a little bit more capital money, we’ll be saving a lot on the expense money side,” he said.
The board wants at least $450,000 in the current budget year to set up a test program with 100 of the computers for this year’s elections.
He also said he thought the cost of making the kiosks could eventually be brought down.
Besides the kiosks, Ryan pled for cash for raises for workers and other projects at a Council budget hearing - and cast the agency’s tight cash situation in conspiratorial terms.
“While the board has been a convenient foil for public criticism, it has at the same time been the victim of a funding scheme that seems to have been intentionally designed to cash starve the agency to accomplish some unknown and ultimately inconceivable goal,” he said.
Kallos said he was reluctant to sink more cash into the perpetually problem-plagued agency.
“It is hard for me to want to invest more when we’re still dealing with allegations of nepotism and a commitment on the part of the organization to your constitutional right to patronage,” he said.
The board also submitted a formal response to a scathing Department of Investigation probe ahead of Tuesday's hearing.