NY’s Oversight Committee head calls for halt on voting machines
The chair of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee is calling for a halt to the Board of Elections’ plan to use machines supplied by a company with a spotty record for this fall’s early voting.
“I’m against rigging the process in favor of a contractor with a dubious track record,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx).
Election Systems & Software came under fire after its ballot scanners reportedly jammed at polling places across the city in November’s elections.
“There needs to be an investigation of the performance and conflicts of interest involving ES&S. There should be a competitive bidding process,” Torres said.
BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan is also on the hot seat after it was revealed last year that he failed to report several posh business trips paid for by ES&S.
He subsequently stepped down from an unpaid gig on the contractor’s advisory board.
The BOE wants to use ES&S’ Express Vote XL touch-screen system, which would let voters cast ballots directly on the machine after inserting a blank slip of paper into a slot in the computer.
But the state Board of Elections has yet to certify ES&S’s touch-screen system and is reviewing the city’s request to use it for nine days of early voting before the Nov. 5 elections.
Torres said he’s also concerned about cyber attacks on the system.
Sources familiar with it said there will be a paper recording of the touch-screen votes to protect against tampering.
In a March 27 letter to the state, Ryan said ES&S’s touch screen was the best option after the city’s board ruled out paper ballots.
“The City Board has concluded that utilizing traditional paper ballots is virtually impossible for early voting,” Ryan wrote.
Election officials are hampered by the scarcity of voting systems.
A majority of voting machines used by election agencies nationwide are provided by only a handful of firms: ES&S, Dominion Voting System and Hart InterCivic.
Only ES&S and Dominion Voting are certified in New York. Both are politically connected.
ES&S has paid a lobbying firm $645,000 to woo election officials and politicians since 2011, records show.
Dominion Voting has paid more than $600,000 since 2011 to a stable of lobbyists.