Sometimes, it seems that government has lost its capacity to run elections. Consider the double-edged sword of electronic voting machines:
In some ways, new optical scan or touch-screen machines are more convenient. They certainly tabulate faster than former machines or humans counting paper ballots. They’re also expensive.
In 2005, then-Secretary of State Betty Ireland entered West Virginia into a single-source contract with Election Systems & Software. Whether counties choose touch-screen or optical scan machines, all 55 must buy their equipment, paper and other supplies and pay regular programming and maintenance fees to ES&S. Not surprisingly, the price of a single-source, no-bid contract is pretty high.
Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick estimates future maintenance costs of Kanawha’s machines will be at least $66,000 a year. That’s not counting programming fees.