In Northampton County, Pennsylvania, recent issues with touchscreen voting machines have raised alarms ahead of the 2024 presidential election. After experiencing a second election-day error in four years, local politicians, poll workers, and election experts are concerned about the reliability of these machines with the election 12 months away.
The glitches occurred during a down-ballot judge’s race in 2019 and again in November 2023, leading to a backlash and urgent efforts to restore voter confidence according to Politico.
The County Executive, Lamont McClure, attributed the glitch to human error. “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,” McClure said.
The errors in 2019 and 2023 involved ExpressVote XL machines from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), which undercounted votes due to programming glitches. Despite assurances from officials and ES&S that the errors did not affect the race outcomes, these incidents have led to significant confusion and growing distrust among the county’s voters. Some local leaders are now calling for the replacement of ES&S machines before the 2024 elections.
The ExpressVote XL machines record votes using both a barcode for tabulation and a text printout for verification. In the recent incident, the machines incorrectly swapped voters’ choices in the text section, but not in the barcode, leading to confusion among voters. This glitch, although technically not affecting the vote count, raised serious questions about the reliability of the machines in critical swing states.
With Trump running again in 2024, skepticism around voting systems is expected to intensify.
In 2016, Trump won the state of Pennsylvania after he received 48.18% of the popular vote in Pennsylvania. The victory in Pennsylvania was a major contribution to Trump’s overall electoral college win. In 2020, Pennsylvania was a closely contested state once again. However, Trump, the incumbent, lost to Joe Biden.
Biden won Pennsylvania, receiving 50.01% of the popular vote in the state, while Trump received only 48.83%. Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
“The broader concern is that an incident like this would be misused to undermine confidence in our electoral process,” Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Al Schmidt, said to Politico on Wednesday, following Northampton’s decision to certify the results the previous evening.
Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, Northampton officials are considering various measures to prevent similar issues, including more rigorous testing and improved communication strategies. However, the decision to replace the machines before their contract expires in 2025 remains uncertain.
Issues arose earlier this month when several voting machines in Northampton County malfunctioned leading to votes being incorrectly recorded. The issue affected the race for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
The malfunction occurred when a voter selected a “Yes” or a “No” for one of the candidates. The selection was then erroneously recorded for the opposing candidate on both the paper ballot and the machine. The glitch was limited to the retention of Superior Court Judges and is only an issue when recording the votes for voters who selected a “Yes” for one candidate and a “No” for another.
“I’m livid at the election folks and ES&S,” said McClure on November 7th. Staff at Lehigh Valley News reported that upon discovering errors with the voting machines shortly after the opening of voting precincts, poll workers throughout the county ceased using the machines and switched to provisional ballots.