PA Williams, CM Torres + Advocates to NYCBOE: Stop Trying to Buy Expensive + Unnecessary Voting Machines

BOE too cozy with company, wasting tax dollars on bad technology

NEW YORK, NY (04/22/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Councilman Ritchie Torres, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, and New York Communities for Change joined together to demand that the New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE) stop trying to purchase unnecessary and expensive voting machines from ES&S.

In late March, the NYCBOE sent a letter to the state asking to circumvent the normal approval process to purchase the ExpressvoteXL, claiming it needed them to comply with the new early voting law in November, and that using paper ballots would be "virtually impossible." These machines are relatively untested and raise serious security concerns, among other objections. Instead, the Board should be looking into ballot on demand printers which are proven, secure, cost-effective, and efficient. Paper ballots are the standard in the 37 states that already have early voting. Counties across the nation, including Los Angeles County (5.3 million registered voters), Denton County, TX (503,487 registered voters), Cuyahoga County, OH (Cleveland - 877,000 registered voters), Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix - 2.3 million registered voters) and all the counties in Maryland and New Mexico, utilize paper ballots, often with ballot on demand systems to hold down costs and waste. The Board's request is also complicated by the fact that Executive Director Mike Ryan previously concealed a relationship with the company that makes the ExpressvoteXL, only disclosing it after being exposed by news reports. Over the weekend, the state BOE rejected the city board's request to bypass the process, but that doesn't mean the city won't still try to get approval for these machines.

"The New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE) is trying to purchase expensive, unsecure, and unnecessary technology," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "Not only is it wasteful, but the fact that the Board's Executive Director has accepted all expense paid trips from the same company that makes these machines, raises obvious questions about whose interests he's serving. Ballot on demand printers are the proven standard in counties across the country, and New Yorkers deserve functioning elections, not more meshugas."

"The state's decision to reject the request for expedited approval of the touchscreen voting machines makes it clear that these machines are untested and unreliable. We must have voting machines with a paper trail that are not easily susceptible to cyber attacks," said Councilman Ritchie Torres, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations.

"The only thing that voters should be thinking about when they step into the voting booth is who would best represent them. Not whether their vote is fairly and securely counted, not whether they can trust that their voting machine serves a civic function and not a profit margin, and not whether the Board of Elections has its priorities in line with what New Yorkers need," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

"So the city's incompetent Board of Elections Director received perks from a voting machine vendor, sat on the company's advisory board and then asked the state to bypass its standard approval process for a dysfunctional product in order to benefit this same corporation. New York State did the right thing by rejecting ES&S' ExpressVote XL, but we have to keep fighting for secure voting machines with a paper ballot to protect the integrity of our elections moving forward. This episode proves that we can't let the same hacks who botched the last election remain in control of the next one. Michael Ryan needs to go," said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change.

Common Cause/NY argued that the proposed machines and vendor raise serious concerns about:

  • Ballot efficiency and security
    • The ExpressvoteXL does not produce a truly verifiable paper ballot. A voter must make their selection on a touchscreen, and the device then prints out a paper ballot summary (not a full ballot) of the voter's selections with a barcode that contains the voter's selections. There's no way for a human eye to discern if the barcode corresponds to their candidate choices. A paper ballot is the only truly secure method that can then be audited if/when necessary. The ExpressvoteXL has also only been used once in a small, local election in a single borough in Gloucester County, NJ recording only 1010 votes. It is irresponsible to trial this system on the millions of voters in New York City.
  • Cost
    • The ExpressVote XL is the most expensive voting machine on the market: $8,250 plus $250 for a 14-hour battery. Most voting machines are $4,000-5,000.
  • Conflicts of Interest
    • Last year, Mike Ryan, Executive Director of NYCBOE, failed to disclose that he sat on the advisory board for ES&S and accepted all expenses paid trips from them.