Pennsylvania Election Fiasco Blamed on Incorrect Settings on New Voting Machines
PHILADELPHIA — When votes were tallied last month using new voting machines in Northampton County, it was quickly obvious that something had gone wrong.
The numbers were so clearly inaccurate that a judge ordered the machines impounded, scanners were brought in to help count ballots, and voters questioned the integrity of the machines and the security of the election. The fiasco heightened concerns about the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania as the state looks to implement new voting machines in all 67 counties before the April primary.
It turns out the machines had been set up improperly, county officials and the voting machine vendor said Thursday, a week after they began an investigation. The machines weren’t prepared to read the results of the specific ballot design used in Northampton County, and dozens of machines had touchscreens that weren’t properly calibrated.
Adam Carbullido, an executive at Election Systems & Software, the Omaha, Neb.-based vendor of the ExpressVote XL machines used in Northampton County, said in a statement that the company “takes full accountability” for the mistakes and is reconfiguring the county’s machines.
“This was all human error and all on ES&S’ end,” said Northampton County executive Lamont McClure.
The same ES&S machines were used in Philadelphia last month without any significant problems.
Northampton County has about 320 of the new machines, McClure said in an interview, and about 30% of them had improperly calibrated screens that led to sensitivity problems. All the machines had problems tabulating results because they didn’t take into account a ballot formatting change made to accommodate candidates who technically ran as both Democrats and Republicans.
There was additional text for those so-called “cross-filed” candidates, and voters’ selections were correctly printed onto the ballot, officials said. But they were read improperly into the database.
The machines only have to be reconfigured once, McClure said, and he emphasized that the machines themselves worked properly in selecting candidates and casting ballots. While there were errors in tabulating them, he said, the voter-verifiable paper ballots worked as designed, allowing them to be audited and hand-counted as needed.
“We had a fair, accurate and legal election,” McClure said. “The machines worked.”
Northampton County’s problems had raised concerns about the voting machines, underscoring criticism from advocates who said Philadelphia should have chosen hand-marked paper ballots instead.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered every county to buy new machines with paper trails that can be audited as an election-security measure in advance of next year’s presidential election.
©2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
SEATTLE — Just before two teenagers were shot at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in the early morning hours of June 29, the scene outside the closed Seattle police East Precinct was one of confused chaos. People ran. They yelled. There were unconfirmed reports of multiple... Read More
RALEIGH, N.C. — This spring when North Carolina state lawmakers were debating a bill making it easier for people to vote by mail in November because of coronavirus, they also added in an unrelated provision about photo IDs. Now, Republican legislative leaders say that because that... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a large part of eastern Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribes - a significant victory for a reservation that challenged the state's authority to prosecute crimes on its land. Writing for the majority, in the 5-4 decision, Justice... Read More
A Jacksonville attorney filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a circuit court to declare next month’s Republican National Convention a nuisance “injurious to the health,” and require it to either be cancelled or scaled down to a much smaller event with strict mask and social distancing requirements.... Read More
Voting by mail, a centerpiece of elections in Florida for almost 20 years, is being hailed in 2020 as a life-saving necessity amid the coronavirus pandemic and attacked by President Donald Trump and his supporters as “fraud.” Elections supervisors can begin sending out mail-in ballots on... Read More
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s apparent proposal that future coronavirus aid for schools be tied to students, rather than school districts, has drawn rebukes from key Democrats. “He wants to increase funding in CARES four for education, but he’s looking at potentially redirecting that to make... Read More