Obviously wasted, since millions nationwide showed up to vote, only to be told that they weren't registered.
The panacea offered here, however--"an automated system," with (presumably) all-electronic voter rolls--would certainly enable more such disenfranchisement, unless it were rigorously policed at every level (state and federal).
In any case, all discussion of "waste" alone, with no attention paid to the deliberate tactics used to block the vote from coast to coast--in this last election just as in '00, '02, '04 and '06--is a waste of breath.
In 2008 Election: Study
by Arthur Delaney
A survey conduced by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that 100 counties across the country collectively spent over $33 million on simple registration and error-correction processes.
"There is massive amount of wasted funds out of county elections budgets that are spent on implementing antiquated registration systems," said the report's author, U.S. PIRG's Lisa Gilbert, in an interview with the Huffington Post. "If we had an automated system, none of that money would need to have been spent at all."
Gilbert's report, titled "Saving Dollars, Saving Democracy," breaks down the average dollar amount wasted according to county size. Counties with fewer than 50,000 people tended to waste about $86,977 on average. Jurisdictions with up to 200,000 people blew about $248,091 and counties with up to a million residents burned over $1,079,610, on average.
The report recommends federal action to create an automated system: "A more streamlined and automatic system linking existing databases with the state voter rolls could free up significant resources at the local level."
An added bonus is that an automated system could also free up the national discourse from the sort of tiresome voter-fraud chatter that dogged 2008 election coverage.
"One great thing about an automatic system would be that whether or not you believe voter fraud happens, this system would eliminate it," Gilbert said.