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The XL's problems cited by experts
Updated news about the citizens' petition to have the XL re-examined and decertified by the PA Dept. of State
Ethical concerns about ES&S and its behavior as a company
Links to articles about XL's controversies in Philadelphia, Northampton County, Georgia and other places (pending)
There are many problems with having all voters use touchscreens and more problems with the ES&S ExpressVote XL in particular. In the opinions of experts, the ExpressVote XL is the worst voting system choice available in Pennsylvania and all counties should avoid it.
Ultra-expensive and fiscally irresponsible
Choosing touchscreens for all voters requires more hardware to be purchased and more expense for maintenance, storage, set up, and delivery. The ExpressVote XL is the most expensive voting machine on the market.
Can modify a cast ballot
The ExpressVote XL has a critical "opportunity-to-mark" design flaw: After a paper ballot is verified and cast by the voter, the ballot travels again past the print head that marked the ballot before it is tabulated. Either through hacking or malfunction, the XL is capable of printing additional marks on the ballot after verification and before tabulation. This serious flaw could change election results or affect the auditability of the ballots. It is common sense that ballots should not pass any marking device again before tabulation.
On all ExpressVote systems, ballot selections are printed on paper as barcodes. The barcodes are the votes counted by the system, but voters cannot read them to verify that they are correct. Below the barcodes will be a human-readable summary which voters will have to trust matches the barcode, with nothing added or omitted. Hacking or malfunction could modify the content of the barcode and the voter would not know.
All ExpressVote systems print a ballot summary instead of a full ballot with all candidates listed. The ballot summary is printed in small, faint-text which is difficult to read through the partially-occluded, glass window of the ExpressVote XL. It is likely it will become more difficult to read over time as the glass window experiences wear. Studies have shown that voters do not verify ballot summaries carefully and do not detect errors. Summaries can be difficult for a voter to verify. Risk-limiting audits cannot detect or correct incorrect election results if voters cast unverified ballots.
All touchscreens can be a problem for voters who are not comfortable with technology or with screen sensitivities (concussions, autism). Long lines are challenging for voters with physical limitations. The ExpressVote XL is even less accessible to voters with disabilities than other touchscreens. The Pennsylvania certification of the ExpressVote XL lists major accessibility flaws that make it an unacceptable choice for voters with vision, hearing, cognitive, and mobility challenges. It got harsh reviews, more than any other voting system.
Long lines frustrate voters and depress voter turnout. When all voters use a touchscreen to vote, it creates the longest lines. If a polling place has two machines, then only two voters can vote at a time. A slow voter holds up the line for everyone else. An audioballot voting session can occupy a machine for 30-40 minutes.
Not resilient to problems
Touchscreens are vulnerable to hardware malfunction, vote flipping, power outages, and hacking. It puts vulnerable technology between voters and their ballots. If machines fail, all voting stops—lines get long and voters leave.
No flexibility to scan hand-marked paper ballots
The ExpressVote XL can only scan ballots which have proprietary barcodes printed on a 4”-wide strip of paper. It is the only voting system on the market with this limitation. Its inability to scan any hand-marked ballots has several important consequences.
It cannot scan absentee ballots.
It cannot scan emergency paper ballots.
It cannot scan hand-marked paper ballots required by pending and future state and federal legislation.
Counties that purchase separate optical scanners are able to scan hand-marked, emergency, and absentee ballots quickly when the polls close. Counties that purchase the ExpressVote XL are the only counties that must hand-count them.
It runs on outdated software, Windows 7
It must be undergo new testing and certification with federal and state authorities and may take time and more cost to implement. It also call into question how serious this company takes security if it's been selling their systems with soon-to-be-unsupported software.
No track record
The ExpressVote XL is a new voting system. It was federally certified for use in July 2018 and has been tested in only a couple of small elections.
Large and heavy, but fragile
It is the largest and heaviest voting system available. Most are 1/3 the size. It would require the most storage space and be the most difficult to deliver and store securely at polling locations. It is the most fragile of all the choices. There are many breakable parts, especially the large touchscreen. A complicated, all-in-one voting machine means more points of failure that can break and take the machine out of service.
This machine was marketed specifically to appeal to jurisdictions that currently use machines like our Danahers. Little consideration was given for its security and verifiability problems--it's being sold for its "familiarity."
The Petition to Decertify the ExpressVote XL (article titles are links)
Gives background on how and why petition for re-exam is brought about. Links to other information about the current Phiadelphia XL controversy.
DoS had informed petitioners' lawyers that re-exam would be done soon, even though the conditions should have allowed petitioners and/or their expert to be there to witness it.
This is a must-read. Breaks down every point in petition and shows why the XL should not be used. Also highlights the inadequacy of how examinations and certifications are conducted in Pennsylvania. A "Take Action" page at end offers citizens some way to fight back.
Controversy in Pennsylvania and around the nation
Amid Controversy, City Commissioners Choose New Voting Machines (February 21, 2019)
Voting Machine Selection Prompts Subpoena in Philadelphia (April 12, 2019)
Several months ago, Northampton County officials chose the Express XL for their citizens. The process seemed controversial and riddled with deceptive marketing. Check out a power-point used by XL proponents to sell this system to an Election Commission majority and then see our debunking of that marketing.
NOTE: Northampton County has 152 precincts, exactly half that of Bucks County's 304 precincts. While not exact because contracts for every county are worked out individually, one could get a rough estimation of what Bucks County costs could be by doubling the Northampton County figures. Doing that could make the ES&S costs for 10 years about $7.5M vs. Clear Ballot costs of $5.2M.
Ethical concerns about ES&S as a company -- a sampling of articles
County to decide what to do about election vendor in coming week (in Indiana, Jan. 17, 2019) Excerpts:
With the primary election less than seven weeks away, county officials will decide in the coming week whether to stick with its long-time election vendor, which broke state election laws and disenfranchised voters in November.
The three-member county election board … met privately with the three-member Board of Commissioners on Monday to discuss what to do moving forward, after the Secretary of State’s Office released a report that placed all of the blame in last year’s election on ES&S, a vendor multiple Indiana counties depend on for voting equipment. The company has provided equipment, software and technology for Johnson County elections for nearly two decades.
The election board will meet publicly on Friday — for the first time since the election — to decide whether to file a lawsuit against ES & S, which would be warranted according to the report, as well as look at other possible vendors the county could use.
The recent report showed the company didn’t secure enough cloud storage to support the volume of people who wanted to vote, and the cost of that was at least one factor. It also revealed that the company knew there was a problem well before Election Day.
The workaround, which violated state law, allowed poll workers to check in voters locally at each site where electronic poll books had slowed or stopped working, which is what was causing the hold up, without logging the voter into the shared cloud system. This means voters could have cast more than one ballot.
In February 2018, Election Systems and Software told the press that it had never installed remote-access software in any of the e-voting systems it has sold in the various US states or to local governments. In April, the company told Senator Ron Wyden’s office (D-OR), that it had sold pcAnywhere remote connection software “to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006.”
The good news about this disclosure is that the systems in question have all been retired and are no longer in use across the United States. But the fact that this happened in the first place, combined with ongoing warnings about the generally poor state of e-voting security, speaks to the depth and breadth of the issues facing the United States’ e-voting system as the 2018 midterm election approaches. The fact that ES&S lied about its own previous behavior to the public until pressured by Senator Wyden’s office says little good about the civic responsibility these companies feel towards ensuring that voting is handled safely. It’s important — just not as important as minimizing any hint of corporate liability.
ES&S Lobbyists Influencing Election Officials? Philly’s new voting-machine contract in jeopardy because vendor failed to disclose use of lobbyists, campaign contributions
(August 14, 2019) Excerpt:
City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt notified the acting board of elections Monday that Election Systems & Software (ES&S) violated the city code by failing to disclose its use of lobbyists and the lobbyists’ campaign contributions, including to the two city commissioners who selected the system. ES&S will be liable for a $2.9 million fine, Pratt wrote in his letter to the board, adding that it has agreed to pay the fine if the contract proceeds.
Oregon senator Ron Wyden, in a speech at an election security conference in Washington DC, said that the voting machine lobby “literally thinks they are just above the law, they are accountable to nobody, [and] they have been able to hotwire the political system in certain parts of the country like we’ve seen in Georgia”.
Wyden was referring to the fact that Brian Kemp, who is now Georgia’s governor after overseeing his own election while secretary of state, appointed an ES&S lobbyist as his deputy chief of staff. Meanwhile, the state is in the process of purchasing more than $150m in new voting machines.
Last year, McClatchy reported that ES&S had set up a customer advisory board composed of between 10 and 15 state and local election officials, many of whom at some point had a role in choosing new voting equipment. The stated purpose of the board was to share information about voting trends and equipment needs. But the company also paid travel expenses for some of the officials to attend two meetings a year, including one trip to Las Vegas, leading to charges of potential conflicts of interest.
DePasquale says decisions about what equipment to buy should be based on "security and long-term effectiveness for the voters as opposed to who was taking people out on wine tours and amusement park trips." He says he has no evidence that the gifts have influenced specific buying decisions, but says even the appearance of special treatment undermines public confidence.