Common Cause/NY Demands NYSBOE Reject ES&S ExpressVote XL Machines

PA Williams, Maya Wiley + advocates caution certification of voting machine, citing cyber security threats, expense, and frequent malfunction

NEW YORK, NY (01/14/2020) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause/NY and voting rights advocates rallied today to demand that the New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) does not certify the ExpressVote XL, which is a touch screen voting machine that would allow voters to mark their ballot electronically instead of on the traditional voter-marked paper ballots. Cyber security election experts almost universally pan the touch screen technology, so much so that most states have switched back to voter-marked paper ballots. The ExpressVote XL, which uses Windows 7, is also about to become even less secure as Microsoft just announced today that it will no longer be providing software updates for the program.

The NYSBOE is currently in the final stages before it does, or does not, certify the new voting machine. ES&S, a voting machine company that makes the ExpressVote XL, has spent over $600,000 lobbying New York state officials.

"The New York State Board of Elections should not, by any means, certify ExpressVote XL machines," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "They are wasteful, insecure and deeply flawed machines. Our current system is already the gold standard: voter-marked paper ballots and optical scanners. The ExpressVoteXL would be a serious and needless step backwards."

Common Cause released a report called "The ExpressVote XL: Bad for New York's Elections." Common Cause argues New York should not purchase the ExpressVote XL because 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.

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, former CCRB Chair and Counsel to Mayor de Blasio Maya Wiley, New York Assemblymembers Catalina Cruz and Ron Kim, and New York City Councilman Brad Lander wrote a letter to the NYSBOE demanding the NYSBOE also reject the ExpressVote XL because it has yet to be used for a Ranked Choice Voting election and has trouble verifying results. Ranked Choice Voting, which passed in NYC last November, will allow voters to rank their top five candidates in order of preference.

"New York has made tremendous progress in the last year to reform and modernize our elections. Meanwhile, New York City made history when it became the largest municipality to adopt Ranked Choice Voting. We hope the New York State Board of Elections takes heed, on behalf of all New Yorkers, and does not undermine our progress, making our elections less secure, and jeopardizing New York City's upcoming Ranked Choice Voting elections," they write in the letter.

Currently, Senator Myrie and Assemblywoman Paulin have legislation in the New York State legislature that would ban the use of hybrid voting machines like the ExpressVote XL.

"There is no good reason to replace New York's voter-marked paper ballots with the touch-screen system that left citizens in other states wondering if their ballots were ever counted," said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester). "I urge the State Board of Elections to reject any change that would undermine voter confidence in our democratic process. I fear that allowing the use of the troubled ExpressVote XL touch-screen machines would do just that."

"The ExpressVote XL has a very short track record but has already failed spectacularly as we saw in Northampton County, Pennsylvania where it could not perform its most basic function - to count the votes accurately. NEDC is suing with our partners Free Speech For People and Citizens for Better Elections to decertify this machine in Pennsylvania. We urge New York not to make the same mistake Pennsylvania did; New York should not certify the XL," said Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of policy and programs for National Election Defense Coalition.