The Wolf is at the Door - Pass the Hybrid Ban Bill
New York voters dodged a bullet recently. On January 28th The New York State Board of Elections unanimously rejected certification of the ExpressVote XL, a voting machine experts say is bad (1) and good government groups say will “undermine the security of our elections.” (2) The ExpressVote XL is called a "hybrid" or "all-in-one" voting machine.
But the ExpressVote XL is not the only problematic "hybrid" voting system. Other hybrid systems have features that experts call "amazingly bad" and "permission to cheat". (3)
Additionally, the vote not to certify the ExpressVote XL could be overturned with very little notice at a later New York State Board of Elections meeting.
A new letter from ES&S has revealed the steps that they are taking "to address the concerns raised by the BOE ... which led the BOE to decline to certify the ExpressVote XL at its January meeting" and that "it is resolving the BOE’s concerns about multilingual voting with a software update."
This will not solve the many profound design, security and transparency problems that concern voters, experts and good government groups, but it may allow the voting machine to get certified for use in New York.
It is imperative that the legislature take immediate action to protect New York voters from these systems that pose "extraordinary risks for the voters of New York." (4) They must pass the"hybrid" ban bill as soon as possible, and before the end of the session. The bill has already been introduced: Assembly Bill A1115 (Paulin) / Senate Bill S309 (Myrie). Legislators can co-sponsor and take action to support it now.
Many disability rights groups support the "hybrid" ban bill. Seven disability groups, led by Downstate New York Adapt, wrote the NY State Board of Elections opposing certification of the ExpressVote XL.(5) They listed privacy concerns as a reason for their opposition. They noted the machine’s “skinny ballots” are a different size, and so might reveal voters’ choices.
What’s Wrong with the ExpressVote XL?
The ExpressVote XL is a voting machine that combines a printer and a scanner in one system with a shared paper path. This is a bad design, and very dangerous, because it allows the paper ballot to pass under the printhead after it is cast by the voter. According to cybersecurity and voting system expert Kevin Skoglund, “It’s like giving a cast ballot to a person holding a pen.” (6) Research indicates this type of voting machine could be programmed by malware to add, change, or omit votes on the paper ballots (7) This can impact, not only the tabulation of votes, but also the backup paper ballots themselves. Because of this, security experts say that elections held on these voting machines “cannot be confirmed by audits.” (8) This is a disaster for verifiable elections.
The Solution: The “Hybrid” Ban Bill
Assembly Bill A1115 (Paulin) / Senate Bill S309 (Myrie)The bill amends election law §7-202 to say that a voting machine or system approved by the state board of elections shall:
u. be constructed so that, after the paper ballot is cast by the 15 voter, the voting machine or system never passes the cast ballot under a 16 printer that can print votes onto the ballot, including as a result of 17 unauthorized, malicious and/or faulty software and/or firmware.
This bill will address one of security experts' primary concerns about “hybrid” voting machines, namely that the printer and the scanner share the same paper path. If we prevent this type of system from being certified, it will help preserve our current system of hand-marked paper ballots for most voters and ballot-marking devices that follow certain security provisions for voters with disabilities.
Please send a letter right now to New York legislators, then share it with your family, friends, and networks. You can send the pre-loaded letter, or write your own.
Click the red button (on the bottom right) that says "Start Writing" to quickly send a letter.
Anyone can send the letter. New York state has historically been a leader on election security. If New York standards are diminished, other states could be at risk. If high standards are created in New York, other states may follow.
1) "ES&S voting machine company sends threats," 1/11/21, Princeton Computer Science. Professor Andrew Appel
2) "The ExpressVote XL Voting Machine: Bad for New York's Elections," Common Cause/ New York, Jan. 2020.
3) "Serious design flaw in ES&S ExpressVote touchscreen: "permission to cheat", 9/14/18, Princeton Computer Science. Professor Andrew Appel
4) “Bad” Voting Machine Rejected by New York," 2/2/21, Quote from Professor Rich DeMillo, Chair of the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech
5) Letter hosted on SMART Elections website
6) Quote from the NY State Board of Elections 1/14/21 meeting (1:28:48)
7) Same as 1.
8) Ballot-Marking Devices Cannot Assure the Will of the Voters, by Andrew W. Appel, Richard A. DeMillo, and Philip B. Stark. Election Law Journal, vol. 19 no. 3, pp. 432-450, September 2020. Free version.