After their new touchscreen voting devices malfunctioned during a down-ballot judge’s contest in 2019, voters in Northampton, Pennsylvania, quietly moved on.
However, when a similar case arose earlier this month, it sparked a reaction inside the county, leaving state and local election authorities in this critical swing state scurrying to rebuild voter faith ahead of what might be another contentious presidential election.
“We’re at the peak of mistrust of one another, but until that subsides, counties like ours need to be nearly perfect, and I think this system allows us to do that,” County Executive Lamont McClure told Politico before Northampton certified the vote on Tuesday, arguing the glitch resulted from human error.
The argument in Northampton comes as election officials throughout the country are still dealing with the fallout from Donald Trump’s 2020 fraud accusations, which frequently focused on how votes are counted at the local level. With Trump as the current Republican frontrunner, that distrust will only grow.
The stakes are especially high in Pennsylvania, which has 19 electoral votes and is projected to be a major battleground state next year. Northampton has around 220,000 registered voters. In 2016, Trump won the state by only 44,000 votes. Four years later, he was defeated by about 80,000 votes.
The story of Northampton also highlights the delicate balance that politicians and election officials believe they must strike when probing election integrity concerns because they don’t want Americans to question elections when the Democratic Party happens to prevail.
“The broader concern is that an incident like this would be misused to undermine confidence in our electoral process,” Al Schmidt, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, told Politico on Wednesday, the morning after Northampton voted to certify the results.
Northampton utilized touchscreen voting equipment from Election Systems & Software for the first time in the 2019 election. A programming error led the ES&S machines to dramatically undercount votes for the Democratic candidate in a local judge’s contest that year. Then, on November 7th, Northampton residents who showed up at their local voting station discovered that printouts from the identical devices did not match the votes they had entered online for two down-ballot judge elections.
County authorities and ES&S have stated that the mistakes did not effect any votes or change the outcome of the contests, which were both uncompetitive, up-or-down votes on whether to retain state judges. They contend that the machines are very trustworthy and not to blame, and that the fault was caused by a single human error in the programming.
“Since 2019, the theory has been well, that was a big mistake, but we caught it and we’ve implemented new processes to make sure nothing like that would ever happen again,” Matthew Munsey, chair of the Northampton County Democratic Party, told Politico.
“I don’t know how we can restore trust with these machines,” he said after the incident.
Skeptics like Munsey believe the problem stems from the core design of the machines, known as the ExpressVote XL.
The machine spits out a paper print-out that captures voters’ selections in two ways: a barcode that is used to tabulate their vote and related text that allows them to check that their vote was entered correctly. However, in the two races on Nov. 7, the computers switched voters’ choices in the textual area of the ballot — but not the barcode — if they voted “yes” to keep one judge and “no” to keep the other.
Officials from ES&S and Northampton admitted that combined pre-election software testing should have detected the issue. They claim that the problem was introduced by an ES&S employee during routine programming to prepare the computers for Election Day.
“We deeply regret what has occurred today,” Linda Bennett, senior vice president of account management at ES&S, stated at a press conference on Election Day this year. She stressed, however, that “we are sure and positive that the voter selections are actually being captured” because the issue only affected the written section.
But the Pennsylvania incident is one of a handful of voting machine cases that have Americans concerned that the country is not ready for the 2024 elections.
Judge Amy Totenberg recently issued a decision concurring there is sufficient reason to believe that the electronic voting machines used by the State of Georgia have substantial flaws.
The District Court Judge found that there is sufficient cause to believe that there may be “cybersecurity deficiencies that unconstitutionally burden Plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and capacity to case effective votes that are accurately counted.”
Totenberg scheduled a bench trial for January 9, 2024, which entails the absence of a jury. Nevertheless, she acknowledged that a compromise might be possible if the state legislature were to take action.
“The Court cannot wave a magic wand in this case to address the varied challenges to our democracy and election system in recent years, including those presented in this case,” she wrote. “But reasonable, timely discussion and compromise in this case, coupled with prompt, informed legislative action, might certainly make a difference that benefits the parties and the public.”
Critically, the court denied that criticism of security flaws with Georgia’s voting machines are based purely on “conspiracy theories.”
“The Court notes that the record evidence does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs’ case in the long course of this litigation,” the judge’s footnote remarked.
In November, Fulton County once again became the notorious focus of a botched election when “missing” ballots were discovered after Election Day.
The discovered batches of Advance Voting Ballots, or early in-person ballots, were missed during the November 7 election, but were found during the recount.
Former President Donald Trump this month sounded the alarms about 3,600 duplicated ballots that were counted in Fulton County in the 2020 presidential election.
State investigators found there were double-counted and miscounted votes during an audit in the county to confirm the 2020 results. The audit was never part of the certified tally in Georgia, the swing state that Joe Biden was awarded after the election.
There are more cases that have America on edge about the 2024 election.
In Massachusetts, NBC10 obtained video footage from a man’s residence via Ring camera that seemingly showed a woman removing ballots from his mailbox. Officials found at least two cases of potential voter fraud in the race.
In Connecticut, Bridgeport Superior Court Judge William Clark vacated the outcomes of a Democratic mayoral primary and mandated a new election.
The judge rendered the decision in response to an online video purportedly showing an advocate of incumbent Democratic Mayor Joe Ganim stuffing bundles of papers into a ballot drop box.
“The videos are shocking to the court and should be shocking to all parties,” stated Judge Clark.
Meanwhile, Democratic mayoral candidate Justin Hurst is accused of bribing Massachusetts residents to cast their ballots. The Republican, a local news outlet, reports that election officials for the city of Springfield stated they observed electors being escorted to city hall for early voting and that at least some of them expected to receive cash after supporting Hurst.
Additionally, video footage surfaced showing an individual affiliated with Hurst’s campaign purportedly distributing cash to voters. Hurst denied that he had anything to do with the scheme, and subsequently lost the mayor’s race.
In contrast to Massachusetts, charges against two Democrats have been announced in New Jersey election fraud investigations.
The office of state Attorney General Matthew Platkin revealed in October charges of election fraud pertaining to mail-in ballots and voter registrations for the 2020 and 2021 elections in two separate municipalities.
Alex Mendez (D), president of the Paterson City Council, is reportedly confronted with further accusations in a case involving election fraud in 2020, as stated by the attorney general’s office. Mendez was previously charged in June 2020 and February 2021.
An additional Democratic candidate in New Jersey was accused of election fraud. The state attorney general made an official statement regarding the charge of “election fraud and other crimes” against Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim, a 2021 candidate for mayor of Plainfield. The AG asserts that Ibezim instructed his associates to complete and deliver to a post office approximately 1,000 blank voter registration applications. Ibezim was defeated in the June 2021 primary by three other candidates.
Furthermore, the Kentucky governor’s race raised eyebrows after reports of a gas leak at a polling place that extended vote-counting hours had many armchair observers wondering if this was a repeat of the infamous State Farm Arena incident in 2020, when a water leak was reported in the early hours of Election Day.
A voting results anomaly in the state race was subsequently pointed out by X pundit “amuse” in a thread.
ELECTION: There are lots of pundits explaining why the GOP didn't win the Kentucky governorship but none of them make much sense to me. How did the GOP AG receive 125K more votes than the GOP Gov candidate? Why did 57K fewer people vote for governor than AG? pic.twitter.com/3xxIVgQ9Xv
— @amuse (@amuse) November 8, 2023
“There are lots of pundits explaining why the GOP didn’t win the Kentucky governorship but none of them make much sense to me. How did the GOP AG receive 125K more votes than the GOP Gov candidate? Why did 57K fewer people vote for governor than AG?”
The Associated Press reported that Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear garnered 693,370 votes, while Republican attorney general candidate Russell Coleman trounced Democrat Pamela Stevenson while getting 752,303 votes.
That would be 57,000 votes more than Andy Beshear attained. So, did all of those Republican voters who turned out for State AG candidate Russell Coleman turn up their noses when it came to voting for Republican Daniel Cameron? It’s possible, but seems implausible.
In Arizona, the Attorney General Kris Mayes further eroded voter trust by vowing to criminally charge any county that engages in a ballot hand count without state authorization.
“As Arizona’s chief law enforcement officer, I have an obligation to warn you that the legal consequences would be serious,” AG Mayes warned.
Mayes pointed out that, “the relevant statutes repeatedly provide that ballots shall be counted by automatic tabulating equipment.”
But these aren’t the only cases following the highly contested 2020 election that have many wondering why Democrats continue to avow there are election integrity issues when they lose races, but they are nothing but “conspiracy theories” when they win them.
In 2021, Democrat power attorney Marc Elias of Perkins Coie claimed voting machine “irregularities” in a New York election. The incumbent Democrat Rep. Ted Brindisi actually brought a lawsuit claiming Republican challenger Claudia Tenney had benefited from election fraud.
In this case, there is reason to believe that voting tabulation machines misread hundreds if not thousands of valid votes as undervotes, (supra at 4), and that these tabulation machine errors disproportionately affected Brindisi, (id.). In addition, Oswego County admitted in a sworn statement to this Court that its tabulation machines were not tested and calibrated in the days leading up to the November 3, 2020 General Election as required by state law and necessary to ensure that the counts generated by tabulation machines are accurate.
Elias claimed the voting machines may have undercounted up to 2,599 votes for Brindisi throughout the district. Brindisi trailed Republican challenger Claudia Tenney by a razor-thin margin of 122 votes. The lawsuit was ultimately unable to overturn the election results.
The mainstream media consistently raises election integrity issues whenever they negatively affect Democratic candidates, but spurn them as nothing more than fodder for “conspiracy theorists” when a Republican candidate is declared the loser in a race.
This kind of double standard is unacceptable and will not stop Americans from being highly suspicious if current frontrunner Donald Trump is again declared the loser of a presidential election race under a historically unpopular Democratic president that millions of Americans have cause to believe is illegitimate in the first place.