By Bob Werner, Northampton County councilman
Officials in many areas of the country had documented warning signs regarding ES&S voting machines. That did not prevent Northampton County from ordering them to comply with Tom Wolf’s mandate that counties replace their old machines.
The Administration and their team presented the proposed voting machines as 100% reliable, despite danger signs that surfaced about their use. The vote to purchase ES&S Vote XL machines followed the decision by the Election Commission that was tasked with finding the best vehicle to protect our votes and bring their decision to Council. The fact that the Commission voted 3-2 (as close to a split decision as you can get with a 5-person panel), demonstrated that several of them had their doubts.
The road to the final decision was rocky, however. Several sessions were held for members of the public to voice their opinions and present opposition. In addition, Council and a representative from ES&S observed the machines in use in New Jersey for a school board race. The results, according to ES&S, administrative research, and the County Executive was “ overwhelming success,” although it should be noted that the numbers of New Jersey voters paled when compared to the numbers we anticipated voting in Northampton County.
In the end, however, following a statement from the County Executive that he actually didn’t need County Council ‘s approval to purchase the ES&S machines, Council opted to take the responsibility on themselves and voted 8-1 in favor of ES&S. The question of why the Administration pushed so hard to quickly move the voting machine contract through, in itself, remains an unknown.
Malfunctions such as the ones we experienced have occurred with screen sensitivity, flipping, calibration problems, and voter touch errors. The glitches persist while numerous lawsuits and cancelled voting machine contracts continue to plague ES&S. In fact, in reviewing factual, documented records from other counties and states, the voting machine and screen problems that date back to 2008 should have been seriously considered when opting for these machines for Northampton County.
After the Election Day debacle, the County Exec and an ES&S VP stood before the public and council, trying to explain the inexplicable. The VP stated that he had never seen problems in his 14 years with the company, until three examples were pointed out, and one recollection came back as he offered that, yes, he remembered one of those episodes.
This history of incidents leads me to conclude that there will likely be no answers to fixing the coding, re-calibration, or re-programming of these voting machines that malfunctioned under acceptable voter conditions. As I was the lone vote against them, I consider it a priority to get our taxpayer $2.8 million back.
Speaking only for myself and not my fellow Council members, I strongly feel that we must move to ensure accuracy and reliability and have our election commission re-convene to find voting machines with paper ballots, not simply paper printouts, that will perform as expected under presidential election conditions with far better results than what Northampton County, and all of us as taxpayers , experienced in November.
Northampton County Councilman