Jill Stein pushes against new Philadel­phia vot­ing ma­chines

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / STATE - By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG – Former Green Party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jill Stein wants Penn­syl­va­nia to block Philadel­phia from us­ing new touch-screen ma­chines the state is buy­ing ahead of the 2020 elec­tion and threat­ened court ac­tion Wed­nes­day if it doesn’t do so promptly.

Northamp­ton County plans to use the same ma­chines as Philadel­phia, agree­ing to buy them in May af­ter 2½ hours of de­bate mostly over the se­cu­rity of the ma­chines.

Stein’s de­mand means that she and a group of plain­tiffs could take the state to fed­eral court, where they filed an agree­ment last year to set­tle their law­suit over vote-count­ing in 2016’s elec­tion.

Stein and the other plain­tiffs made the re­quest in writ­ing to Penn­syl­va­nia’s Depart­ment of State, which over­sees elec­tions.

“We must pro­tect our vote and we must pro­tect the au­then­tic­ity of our vote,” Stein told sup­port­ers dur­ing her an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day in front of Philadel­phia’s fed­eral court­house.

The depart­ment has 30 days to re­spond, and on Wed­nes­day did not say whether it would de­cer­tify or con­sider de­cer­ti­fy­ing the ma­chines.

The law­suit ac­cused Penn­syl­va­nia of vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of vot­ers, say­ing its vot­ing ma­chines in 2016 were sus­cep­ti­ble to hack­ing and bar­ri­ers to a re­count were per­va­sive.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion set­tled the law­suit in part by af­firm­ing a com­mit­ment it made pre­vi­ously to push Penn­syl­va­nia’s coun­ties to buy vot­ing sys­tems that leave a ver­i­fi­able pa­per trail by 2020.

But Stein said that Penn­syl­va­nia’s cer­ti­fi­ca­tion last year of the Ex­pressVote XL touch­screen sys­tem made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Elec­tion Sys­tems & Soft­ware vi­o­lates that agree­ment, in part be­cause the ma­chine does not meet the agree­ment’s re­quire­ments for a voter-ver­i­fi­able pa­per bal­lot.

Elec­tion-in­tegrity ad­vo­cates view the ma­chines as less se­cure than sys­tems that tab­u­late voter-marked pa­per bal­lots. In ad­di­tion to Philadel­phia and Northamp­ton County, Cumberland County agreed to buy or lease the ma­chines.

With warn­ings of Rus­sian ef­forts to in­ter­fere in 2016’s elec­tions, Penn­syl­va­nia was un­der par­tic­u­lar scru­tiny be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of its more than 20,000 elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines used that year stored votes elec­tron­i­cally with­out printed bal­lots or other pa­per-based back­ups that could be dou­ble-checked.

MATT ROURKE/AP

Former pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jill Stein speaks Wed­nes­day out­side the fed­eral court­house in Philadel­phia, say­ing she wants Penn­syl­va­nia to block Philadel­phia from us­ing touch-screen vot­ing ma­chines.

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