PA County Election Turned Into “Nightmare” After Voting Machines Malfunctioned

By Tyler Durden

A couple of minutes after polls closed in Easton, Pennsylvania on Election Day, the chairwoman of the county Republicans, Lee Snover, realized something had gone horribly wrong.

When vote totals began to come in for the Northampton County judge’s race, it was obvious there was a problem. The Democratic candidate, Abe Kassis, only had 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across 100 precincts. In an area where you can vote for a straight party ticket, it was near a “statistical impossibility”, according to the New York Times.

When paper backup ballots were recounted, they showed Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio. Snover said at about 9:30PM on November 5, her “anxiety began to pick up”.

“I’m coming down there and you better let me in,” she told someone at the election office after eventually getting through to them on the phone.

Matthew Munsey, the chairman of the Northampton County Democrats who helped with the paper ballot recount said: “People were questioning, and even I questioned, that if some of the numbers are wrong, how do we know that there aren’t mistakes with anything else?”

The issue in Northampton County continues to highlight fears and mistrust over election security that the nation is feeling on a broader scale heading into 2020. The machines used in Northampton County were also used in Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs, crucial areas for next year’s Presidential election.

Calibration of the voting ecosystem is often invoked by those who lose by a small margin.

Snover echoed voter concerns: “There are concerns for 2020. Nothing went right on Election Day. Everything went wrong. That’s a problem.”

Voters around the country say that machines exacerbate an already grueling voting process that is replete with long lines and frustrated poll workers.

Michelle Broadhecke of Easton, like many others who watched their Democratic candidate go down in flames in 2016, said her anxiety about elections began after Trump won.

She said: “It made me sad because with everything that’s going on, you kind of worry about: Was something tampered with, or was it just a mistake. There’s just too much going on that you worry about those things. And you don’t want the wrong people in the wrong places.”

No study has been conducted to determine why the machines malfunctioned in Northampton County. The machines stay locked away for 20 days after the election, per state law. The prevailing theory has been a bug in the software and there have been no visible signs of outside meddling, according to a senior intelligence official. 

Or as Democrats call it, “Russian interference”. 

County officials say the machines worked as they should have, with the paper ballot backup process working as advertised.

Katina Granger, a spokeswoman for Election Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the machines said: “We also need to focus on the outcome, which is that voter-verified paper ballots provided fair, accurate and legal election results, as indicated by the county’s official results reporting and successful postelection risk-limiting audit. The election was legal and fair.”

Others say the mess highlights a lack of uniformity for purchasing voting systems on a national scale. Federal testing standards for election machines haven’t been updated since 2005, when a large percentage of the machines were not digital, the Times notes.Kevin Skoglund, a senior technical adviser for the National Election Defense Coalition, a nonpartisan group that focuses on election security issues, commented: “Not only is that a decade before the current cybersecurity threats to our elections, it is two years before the first iPhone. There is a newer 2015 standard, but the Election Assistance Commission lets voting system vendors choose which one to use.”

The machines that broke are called the ExpressVoteXL and are made by Election Systems & Software. It is among the most high end machine is being called a “luxury one-stop” voting system that combines a 32 inch screen with a paper printer.

There are nearly 6,300 ExpressVoteXL machines in use across the country and the way they were chosen for use in Philadelphia has drawn significant scrutiny. Since 2013, ES&S had been lobbying two Philadelphia city commissioners and had donated $28,000 in campaign contributions and direct lobbying of Al Schmidt, one of the city’s commissioners.

In total, E.S.&S. spent more than $425,000 in lobbying expenses related to the City of Philadelphia.

Emails obtained by the city comptroller also found that E.S.&S. had influenced the writing of the city commissioners’ $22 million budget request for new election machines, tilting the process in favor of its machine, the ExpressVoteXL. The city eventually purchased the machines for $29 million in February.

But the machines are supposed to be able to test themselves to prevent what happened in Northampton County. According to the Times:

The machines began arriving in the county in August, having gone through a federal and state certification process. The only remaining testing to be done was what officials called a “logic and accuracy test,” which is a quick dry run of roughly 20 dummy ballots. But the ExpressVoteXL has an auto-test function in which the machines can simulate a full digital test, a feature that election security experts say is ill-advised.

Skoglund continued: “It doesn’t test if the touch screen or the scanner work. It doesn’t even cast votes for everyone on the ballot. It is especially concerning that it can send made-up votes to the vote counting software without needing a real ballot. Fake ballots are a feature no voting machine should have.”

The automatic tests in Northampton proved to be problematic in that they didn’t even cast votes for every candidate.

The machines were rolled out and used anyway. 

This article was sourced from

Image Credit: chrisdiontewalker

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