Pennsylvania voting machine glitch fuels 'peak of mistrust'

November 27, 2023

When voting machines in the swing county of Northampton in the swing state of Pennsylvania glitched for the second time in four years, it fueled a "peak of mistrust" from that state's voters that may carry over into future local elections.

Election Systems & Software touchscreen machines were used for the first time in 2019, and after the election, a significant undercount was detected in a local judge's race.

Earlier in the month, it was discovered that printouts did not match touchscreen votes in two down-ballot judge's races.

Now, voters are demanding answers.

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,” County Executive Lamont McClure told Politico as Northampton certified the vote on Tuesday. McClure insisted that the glitch was due to human error.

That was not good enough for some county officials, let alone voters.

“In 2019, when the issues came up with the touchscreens, we were told, ‘Don’t worry about it. The cards are recording the votes,’” Northampton County Republican Committee chair Glenn Geissinger said about the 2019 glitch. “OK, you’re telling me now, in 2023, ‘Don’t worry about what’s printed on the card’?”

On social media, the calls for reform are even more strident.

Pivotal county

Northampton County has 220,000 voters and is pivotal in the state's elections. In 2016, Trump won the state of Pennsylvania by 40,000 votes; he lost it by 80,000 in 2020.

County officials said the pre-election software testing should have caught the glitch, so questions remain about exactly what happened.

Neighboring Lehigh County did not have the same kind of issues; about the same time Northampton County started using the new machines, Lehigh changed from touchscreen machines to paper ballots filled out by voters and fed into machines.

This gives officials a paper copy of each ballot and makes voters feel more secure.

Election Hijinx

The state allows ample mail-in voting and dropboxes, and even tried to count ballots that were received after Election Day and were not dated in 2020.

It's all the usual election hijinx, and it could make all the difference when voters make their choices in 2024.

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