New voting machines not used due to costs

Despite having brand new $100,000 voting machines available at the Palau Election, Aimeliik State general election and tabulation had to be done manually.  The new voting machines could not be used to tally just little over 400 ballots casted at the 11th Aimeliik State General Election on Tuesday, November 12th.

“We were planning to use them at this Aimeliik general election but unfortunately, due to financial reasons, we were unable to do so,” reported Benita Brel, Palau Election Commission Board member.

According to Brel, their budget only covered the cost of purchasing and shipping of the election machines to Palau.  Handling costs are still to be paid.

“For each and every election, we need to pay programming cost of around $3,500 to ES&S Company to program the machine for a specific ballot.  We still to have to buy the ballot paper from them, have them printed and shipped here.  Aimeliik State for example, with about 1,000 registered voters, would cost us around $5,000 just to have the machines programmed and ballots shipped here for voting,” added Ms. Brel.

This cost can go up or down depending on variables such as the number of registered voters, shipping cost of ballot papers and programming.

“If there is a primary election, which is very likely for the upcoming general election due number of candidates for President, we will definitely require separate programming and ballots for that in addition to general election,” said Brel.

FY 2020 Budget for Palau Election Commission is $258,000, same as FY 2019 Budget appropriation. Asked why these costs were not included in the FY 2020 budget, Ms. Brel said that they expect to have full cost estimates provided to the Office of the President for inclusion in the next supplemental budget.

“We are contemplating raising the filing fee for candidates in order to help off-set portion of the election expenses such as the costs associated with these voting machines,” stated Benita.

The four voting machines which were procured from a top voting machine maker in the United States, Election Systems & Software Services (EE&S) are updated versions of voting machines Palau had procured and used for nearly 20 years. The machines, compact and portable, also takes pictures of ballots when ballots are inserted providing a photo copy of ballots for backup and security purposes.