Jill Stein Wants a Federal Court to Block Philadelphia’s Voting Machines

November 27, 2019by Jonathan Lai
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Aug. 19, 2016 at the Holiday Inn Lower East Side, in New York City, N.Y. (Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Jill Stein asked a federal court Tuesday to bar Philadelphia’s new voting machines from being used, saying Pennsylvania should never have approved the machines and is breaking the terms of a settlement she reached late last year with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

That agreement, which ended the Green Party candidate’s 2016 election recount lawsuit, requires the department to only certify machines that use voter-verifiable paper ballots that can be audited after an election. Prior to the settlement, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf last year ordered every county to buy new voting machines that leave such a paper trail behind.

But the new system used in Philadelphia and other counties, the ExpressVote XL from vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S), is insecure and violates that agreement, Stein said.

In the motion filed Tuesday, Stein and Pennsylvania voters who joined in her lawsuit asked the federal court in Philadelphia to order the Department of State to immediately decertify the ExpressVote XL and block it from being recertified.

Stein mounted a third-party presidential campaign in 2016, one that many Democrats blame for taking votes from Hillary Clinton and swinging the election to Donald Trump.

“Pennsylvania officials have insisted on ramming these machines through in a secretive, heavy-handed process,” Stein said in a statement. “They’ve left us no other option but to ask the court to enforce our settlement agreement to ensure that Pennsylvania voters have a voting system they can trust in time for the 2020 elections.”

The Pennsylvania Department of State declined to comment. If Stein is successful, counties in the state would be prohibited from using the machines, and those who already have them would be forced to buy new ones before the 2020 election.

Stein’s motion argued that the new machines don’t produce true paper ballots that can be verified by voters, that election results are determined based on printed bar codes that voters cannot read, and that the machines are insecure and could allow ballots to be modified after submission.

Taken together, Stein said, those issues make it impossible for voters to verify their selections are recorded and counted properly. And it also makes it impossible to audit and confirm the results of any election conducted on the machines.

A spokesperson for ES&S said the system “has been through hundreds of thousands of hours of testing,” and noted that it was certified first by the federal Election Assistance Commission and then twice by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

“They put the ExpressVote XL through extensive testing not just once, but twice,” spokesperson Katina Granger said in an email. “By all accounts, it meets and exceeds the highest standards for security, accuracy and accessibility.”

Philadelphia used the new machines in local election this month, at a cost of $29 million. Northampton County also used the new system this month, and Cumberland County plans to use it next year. Other counties have not yet chosen their machines.

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©2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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