PHILADELPHIA, PA – In response to the failure of Northampton County’s new ExpressVote XL voting machines in their inaugural election, advocates for election system security, accuracy and transparency have renewed their call for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to decertify the contentious voting system. The National Election Defense Coalition, Citizens for Better Elections, Free Speech For People, and Protect Our Vote Philly have previously petitioned the Secretary of the Commonwealth to decertify the ExpressVote XLs, provided by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), arguing they fail to meet Pennsylvania election code.
Northampton County acknowledged problems with its new voting machines after precincts reported election results showing that a popular judicial candidate had received no votes in the election. In response to public outcry about the obvious error, county officials collected and rescanned, on different scanning machines, the ballot cards created by the ExpressVote XL late into the night. The ballot card is a paper record printed with barcodes that encode each vote for the scanner to count, along with a text summary of the voter’s selections.
Election watchdogs have criticized the ExpressVote XL all-in-one ballot marking device for not conforming to Pennsylvania election code and to requirements that new voting machines provide a voter-verifiable paper ballot. An accessibility study conducted by the Commonwealth found that voters’ selections on the ballot summary produced by the ExpressVote XL could not be verified because of the small font size and poor orientation under the glass.
“Voters are worried that their votes are not being accurately recorded,” said Kevin Skoglund, chief technologist for Citizens for Better Elections. “There were many reports of touchscreens flipping votes from one candidate to another. Voters couldn’t verify the barcodes that are being counted or read the small, faint text of the ballot summary.”
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure insisted that the results derived by re-scanning the barcodes off the ballot summaries are correct, but election integrity advocates raised questions about the reliability of the system. “These machines already failed spectacularly to count votes,” said Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of policy and programs at the National Election Defense Coalition. “The opacity in this system means that we are forced to trust that the barcode and ballot summary are printed correctly.”
The ExpressVote XL has also been controversial because of its high price tag and cloud of controversy surrounding its procurement in Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s City Controller found that ES&S violated procurement rules by failing to disclose political contributions to City Commissioners responsible for voting on its contract.
“Philadelphia’s unreliable ‘best-value’ procurement system gave us an unreliable voting system. The ExpressVote XL is not the best value at all,” said Rich Garella, co-founder of Protect Our Vote Philly. “It should never have been an option. We can’t risk a failure like this in a presidential election year.”
“The fiasco in Northampton County should serve as a red flag for the Secretary of the Commonwealth that the testing and certification her office conducted was insufficient as her office has certified a system that cannot satisfy its most fundamental requirement,” said John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech For People. “The Secretary is responsible for certifying voting equipment to reliably count the votes of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Clearly the ExpressVote XL did not do that and it should be decertified.”