ICYMI: Buffalo News Editorializes In Favor of Common Cause/NY Lawsuit to Prevent ExpressVote XL Voting Machine

Today, the Buffalo News published an editorial that warned against the purchase of ExpressVote XL voting machines in New York’s elections. The editorial highlighted numerous issues with the machines that make voting more difficult and less secure than paper ballots. Last week, Common Cause New York and The Black Institute filed a lawsuit to overturn the New York State Board of Elections’ certification of the faulty machines citing its failure to comply with state election laws.

See here and below for the full Buffalo News editorial.

The Editorial Board: Lawsuit over proposed new voting machines may be enlightening

We’re not sure why the State Board of Elections approved a questionable new kind of voting machine for New Yorkers, but maybe residents will find out, based on a new lawsuit.

Common Cause New York and The Black Institute, a policy think tank that focuses on issues affect Black New Yorkers, filed the suit last week, claiming that the new technology violates state law by not allowing voters to independently and privately verify their votes. Five people also joined in the lawsuit.

The controversy is over the ExpressVote XL system by Election System & Software, which the Board of Elections approved in August. Even before that approval, critics had been citing what appear to be serious defects in the technology. They include:

In 2019, the system miscounted tens of thousands of votes in Northampton, Pa. – then picked the wrong winner.

Logjams created by the system’s ballot-marking devices in Johnson County, Kan., have caused hourslong lines in the county of 613,000. “There is no doubt that New York would have the same issues,” Common Cause wrote in an email before the Elections Board approved the system.

The system creates difficulties for voters with disabilities. A review by the Pennsylvania Department of State found that the system’s functionality is lacking in several ways, including the inability of some voters to verify their paper ballot due to small font size and obstructed views of the ballot summary card.

And, significantly, Common Cause says the system does not produce a “truly verifiable” paper ballot. Voters make their selections on a touchscreen, and the device then prints out a paper summary (not a full ballot) with a barcode. Voters never handle their actual ballot, and there’s no way to tell if the barcode corresponds to their votes.

With the lawsuit, New Yorkers may have the chance to better understand the issues that Common Cause cites. But a larger question is why New Yorkers should adopt a costly new system for voting at all when the current one functions well. And, given worries many Americans have over the security of their votes, why switch to a system that seems liable to make matters even worse?

Regardless of how the lawsuit ends, this is not a done deal. While the State Board of Elections has approved the ExpressVote XL system, that is all it has done. It is now up to counties to decide whether they want to adopt it. Erie County and others around Western New York should decline.

As we have previously observed, voting is the defining act in any democracy. It needs to be easy to do, accessible for all and, of course, accurate and reliable. At this point, that demands some kind of paper ballot. That is especially urgent as disreputable forces seek, for personal gain, to infect the public with unfounded doubts about the accuracy and security of the votes they cast. Voting today is safe, secure and reliable. The ExpressVote XL system could upend that.

And, as we have also previously noted, when it comes to voting, the state should be devoting it energy to expanding the ways New Yorkers can vote. Given the increase in turnout that accompanied the broader use of voting by mail during the pandemic, New York should make the option permanent, as other states – both red and blue – have successfully and safely done. The change provides benefits beyond convenience for voters. In particular, with more people casting ballots, candidates and political parties will be forced to be more responsive to voters’ concerns.

And wouldn’t that be a thing?