County must improve pre-election testing, contingency plans, and voter communication efforts
Today, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Common Cause PA, All Voting is Local, PA Voice, Action Together NEPA, and PA Stands Up called on Northampton County to provide clarity on the voting machine programming error that occurred affecting two judicial retention questions on November 7, 2023.
“The County’s conflicting messages to the public on Election Day led to confusion, concern, and doubt in the security and accuracy of votes. These mistakes grow into misinformation.” said Philip Hensley-Robin, executive director of Common Cause PA. “These programming errors damage public trust. To prevent further damage, it is imperative that the County clarify what happened and why it happened. We must reassure voters that steps are being taken to prevent this kind of mistake in the future.”
The voting rights organizations call on Northampton County to:
- Conduct a full investigation of the error, with transparency for the public.
- Evaluate logic and accuracy testing procedures and make adjustments to catch errors prior to Election Day.
- Issue public notice of logic and accuracy testing to allow observers, as required by the Election Code.
- Supply each polling place with adequate emergency paper ballots, equal to at least 50% of registered voters.
All Pennsylvania counties are required to complete logic and accuracy testing of all voting machines, prior to Election Day. These tests are designed to detect issues with screen calibration, mislabeling of codes, and more, so they can be corrected before voters enter the booth. While the County completed some of this testing, it was not completed to adequacy or full compliance; otherwise the issue would have been caught and corrected before Election Day.
In addition, the County’s contingency plans were wholly inadequate to withstand an issue of this nature. The County did not have a sufficient number of emergency and provisional ballots on hand, with no local printer contracted to be available and print more ballots. The County had essentially no workable contingency plan in place, in the event that the machines were unusable at any point in the day.
“The programming error that occurred in Northampton County should be a lesson for every Pennsylvania county that uses hybrid touchscreen voting machines,” said Marian Schneider, senior policy counsel for voting rights at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “It’s incumbent on county officials to rigorously test voting machines and have sufficient numbers of backup paper ballots are on hand. Northampton County missed this error in its pre-election testing and failed to have an adequate contingency plan, including a lack of emergency paper ballots. The ACLU of Pennsylvania is committed to doing all we can to ensure that each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are taking the proper precautions to ensure smooth, safe, and secure elections in 2024 and beyond.”
The full letter is available here: https://www.commoncause.org/pennsylvania/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2023/11/20231114_letter_to_northampton_county_elections.pdf