ExpressVote XL voting machines are displayed during a demonstration at...

ExpressVote XL voting machines are displayed during a demonstration at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia on June 13, 2019.  Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

ALBANY — A group of election watchdogs filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block the use of a controversial voting machine in New York.

Led by Common Cause New York, the group contends the state Board of Elections erred in August when it certified for use the ExpressVote XL, a touch screen machine.

The machine allows voters to mark a ballot electronically instead of on paper and displays selections on a summary card. Advocates said that’s not enough to verify ballots independently, as required by state law.

In their lawsuit, the advocates said: “As a voter cannot read a bar code, the voter’s ballot is not certifiable. No voter can verify that the bar code accurately reflects the voter’s selections shown on the summary card.”

The advocates want a court to reverse the certification, which would mean county boards of election couldn’t purchase the ExpressVote XL. In New York, each county purchases its own voting machines, selecting from choices certified by the state.

Election Systems & Software, the Nebraska company that makes the ExpressVote XL, didn’t immediately comment.

The state Board of Elections approved the machine in August in a rare 3-1 vote, with two Republican commissioners joining with one Democrat.

The other Democrat on the board, Douglas Kellner, echoed advocates’ complaints about the bar code issue. He said a touch screen machine “lacks the trust” voters have in paper ballots.

But the majority rejected that argument, noting the Election Department’s technical staff said the bar code/summary card system met state requirements.

They said issues of voters’ trust and county expenses are up to local officials to determine — and are decisions outside the state board’s authority.

Advocates noted a judicial race in Northampton County, Pa., earlier this month was marked by problems with the ExpressVote XL. The summary cards incorrectly reflected voters’ selections although the machine electronically recorded the tally correctly, officials there said.

The machine shouldn’t be an option for New York for now, the advocates said.

“The certification of ExpressVote XL — an expensive and below standard voting machine — was a major step backward for New York, and an exceedingly poor decision ahead of the 2024 presidential election year when election security remains a fraught topic,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, in a statement.

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