(SNews) – A top executive from the company behind the voting machines that “flipped votes” in Pennsylvania on Tuesday has admitted that “someone from our team programmed the election.”
The voting machine issued caused votes in an eastern Pennsylvania county to appear to be “flipped” on a ballot question, officials said Tuesday.
Voters were asked to decide whether Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges Jack Panella and Victor Stabile should be retained for additional 10-year terms.
The “yes” or “no” votes for each judge were switched on a summary displayed to voters before they cast their ballot, said Charles Dertinger, the Northampton County director of administration.
If a voter marked “yes” to retain Panella and “no” on Stabile, for example, it was reflected as “no” on Panella and “yes” on Stabile.
Voters noticed the error on the printed voting records produced by the touchscreen machines.
The issue was brought to the attention of poll workers shortly after the start of voting on Tuesday morning.
During a news conference in Easton on Tuesday afternoon, Dertinger insisted that votes would be tabulated accurately.
“What you read and what the computer reads are two different things,” he said.
“The computer does not read the text that is printed out.”
The issue affected all the county’s voting machines in use Tuesday, estimated at more than 300.
The Pennsylvania Department of State said the problem was isolated to the two retention votes in Northampton County and that no other races statewide were affected.
The county obtained a court order Tuesday after the problem was discovered that allowed the machines to continue to be used.
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, who leads the county 50 miles north of Philadelphia, called it a “relatively minor glitch.”
McLure said in a statement that “everybody’s vote’s going to count” as the voters intended.
Poll workers were instructed to inform voters of the glitch before they entered the voting booth.
Still, he said later Tuesday, the problem angered him, given many voters’ mistrust.
“It’s our job to help give people confidence, help give them peace of mind in their voting processes,” McClure, a Democrat, said at the news conference.
“We need to need to reassure the public that their voting is safe and secure.”
McClure blamed a “coding error” by voting machine company Election Systems & Software.
He said the county’s elections staff failed to pick up the issue during testing.
Omaha, Nebraska-based ES&S acknowledged fault.
A company spokesperson, Katina Granger, said the problem was caused by “human error.”
Granger said the problem was limited to Northampton County and only affected the judicial retention question.
“We deeply regret what has occurred today,” said Linda Bennett, the company’s senior vice president of customer operations.
Bennett also said that it was a “human error” but also admitted that the vote-flipping issue was created when someone “programmed the election.”
“It was a human error, based on someone from our team that programmed the election,” Bennett responded when asked by a reporter why the voting machines had errors.
“They made a mistake putting the printed text on the card as opposed to the screen,” she continued.
“Someone from our team inadvertently put the wrong name.”
Senior VP of Customer Operations of Election Systems & Software the company responsible for PA Votes ‘Flipping’ Says: “It was a human error someone from our team PROGRAMMED the election. pic.twitter.com/BxrwVOaWlY
— Anthony Scott (@AnthonyScottTGP) November 8, 2023
It’s not the first time Northampton County has had problems with the company’s ExpressVoteXL touchscreen system.
In 2019, an incorrectly formatted ballot in a judicial race forced election workers to count the vote on paper ballots.
Election security advocates later filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s certification of the ExpressVoteXL system.
The suit was settled in August with an agreement that election officials would record and publicly report problems with voting machines.
Rich Garella of Protect Our Vote Philly, one of the plaintiffs in that suit, questioned Tuesday whether the ExpressVoteXL machines could be trusted.
“Every malfunctioning machine should be immediately pulled from service and every voter should receive an emergency paper ballot,” he said.
The machines are also used in Philadelphia and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, although there were no reports of problems there Tuesday.