BREAKING: Common Cause/NY Calls On COIB to Investigate NYCBOE ED Mike Ryan

Ryan's questionable relationship to ES&S may threaten security of NYC elections

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NEW YORK, NY (01/28/2020) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause/NY sent a letter to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) requesting that it open an investigation into Michael J. Ryan, the Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE). The letter (attached) specifically draws attention to Ryan's problematic relationship with the voting machine vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

The letter offers a detailed outline of Mr. Ryan's conflicts, including the fact that he seemingly violated city law on multiple counts when he failed to obtain the necessary waiver to sit on the ES&S advisory board, and again by accepting prohibited valuable gifts. In return, Mr. Ryan has been particularly helpful in expanding ES&S' $50 million footprint to the potential detriment of New York City elections. In March, he sent a letter to the NYS BOE pushing it to disregard the normal approval process for voting machines (ie: security tests and public demonstrations) and certify the ExpressVote XL: an ES&S product. The machines have been widely panned as expensive security threats to safe elections.

"Mike Ryan's problematic relationship to a voting machine company actively seeking contracts from the BOE raises serious questions about whether he's putting the safety and security of New York's elections first, " said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "The COIB has a responsibility to investigate."


In January 2014, Mr. Ryan accepted a position on the ES&S National Customer Advisory Board. ES&S paid for Ryan to attend at least nine conferences across the country, including airfare, hotels, and food. Additionally, Ryan never filed the necessary ethics waiver to join the advisory board nor did he properly disclose his membership on the annual city-mandated disclosure form. In December 2018, his failure to disclose his membership on the board became public and, at the time, Common Cause/NY called on Ryan to resign.

Three months later he continued to advocate for ES&S by sending a letter to the state BOE encouraging it to bypass certification and use the ExpressVoteXL: an expensive and insecure voting machine that uses touch screen technology. Writing that he supposedly needed fast-track approval so the city could comply with the requirements for early voting, Ryan claimed that using existing paper ballots would be "virtually impossible." Although the NYSBOE ultimately rejected his request, the ExpressVote XL is now under review. To date, the company has spent $600,000 lobbying the state to win on the purchase of new voting machines.

Earlier this month, Common Cause/NY released a report called "The ExpressVote XL: Bad for New York's Elections," laying out why the New York State BOE should not certify the ExpressVote XL, arguing that it is:

  • Vulnerable to cyber attacks and hardware malfunctions
    • ExpressVote XL machines do not leave a secure paper trail, making results easier to hack. According to a recent study, only 40% of voters reviewed their ballot for accuracy after submission and only about 7% informed a poll worker if something was wrong. The study concludes that a hacker could easily change the results of 1% or 2% of votes without anyone noticing.
    • The 14 states that use ballot-marking devices have begun to phase them out.
    • Touchscreens malfunction and can cause long lines for voters. For example, in Pennsylvania, roughly 30% of the machines allowed voters to select only some candidates' names, and not others.
  • Prone to undercounting votes
    • In a race in Pennsylvania, a candidate was recorded as having 164 votes on election night, but after a manual recount the same candidate had over 26,000 votes, winning the race.
  • Expensive
    • The ExpressVote XL costs roughly $8,250 per unit. This is far more expensive than other voting machines. Additionally, it will cost more money to store and transport the machines.