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Lehigh Valley Election News

Audit of voting machine results comes in clean, but Northampton Co. GOP says effort to decertify goes on

UPDATE: County executive accepts resignation of Director of Administration Charles Dertinger

EASTON, Pa. — Glenn Geissinger has a degree in accounting, so he knows numbers.

Regarding the problem with voting machines during the general election this month in Northampton County, the county’s Republican Party chairman said he feels things just don’t add up.

While observing representatives of the county election office conducting two post-election audits on Friday morning, Geissinger vowed that while the final votes have been cast, the battle goes on.

“The Northampton County Republican Party legal team is in discussion with the Pennsylvania Republican Party legal team on how to proceed in order to challenge the certification of the election and look to the remedy,” Geissinger said. “We’re meeting with the state party’s counsel on Monday.”

"Our remedy, at least in part, is to have these machines decertified."
Northampton County Republican Party Chairman Glenn Geissinger

On Friday, the county conducted a state-mandated statistical sample audit (SSA) of the voting machine results as well as an audit of mail-in ballots to examine the Superior Court votes.

The audit confirmed the paper ballot numbers reflected those of the machine totals.

But Geissinger said he sees deeper problems with the voting machines.

At issue for Geissinger is the ballot question for retention of incumbent state Superior Court judges — Democrat Jack Panella and Republican Victor P. Stabile.

Voters were asked to decide whether both 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 on the Election Systems & Software ExpressVote XL touch screen voting machines.

For example, if a voter marked “yes” to retain Panella and “no” on Stabile, it was reflected as “no” on Panella and “yes” on Stabile on a summary printout of ballots cast.

The county and ES&S later determined the error was caused by an ES&S employee mislabeling the retention questions, which led to the votes being flipped on the printout summaries.

Election officials say the machines recorded the votes properly, however.

Glenn Geissinger.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
Northampton County Republican Party Chairman Glenn Geissinger said the local GOP organization and the State GOP are meeting on Monday on how to proceed through the courts to decertify the recent county election.

The county shut down voting machines early on Election Day to sort out the error. Poll workers relied on more than 2,000 emergency paper ballots until use of the machines was resumed by court order.

“The retention questions of Panella and Stabile are flipped in every precinct,” Geissinger said. “That’s been our contention all along, that the audit trail by definition has to be correct, otherwise you’re not performing an audit. And therefore, you can’t perform an audit.

“I’m not saying it was done maliciously. But I have an accounting degree, I understand the word audit. And according to state law, the audit is what’s right.”

Geissinger said the remedy to the issue the GOP plans to present in court is to have the machines decertified.

“When you go into court you need a remedy,” he said. “Our remedy, at least in part, is to have these machines decertified. This isn’t the first time there’s been an issue with these machines.”

In 2019, an incorrectly formatted ballot in a Northampton County judicial race forced election workers to count the vote on paper ballots.

Election-security advocates later filed suit challenging Pennsylvania's certification of the ExpressVoteXL system. The suit was settled with an agreement that election officials would record and publicly report problems with voting machines.

At issue currently for Geissinger is voter disenfranchisement. He said his party has collected more than 100 sworn affidavits from county voters who report their right to vote was challenged at the polls. Among the complaints were voters being told to leave the polling place and return later when the problem with the voting machines was corrected.

Geissinger contends that a voter should feel confident their vote is being tabulated as they wish, without question.

“When the voter pushes that button, they should be confident that what they pushed shows up on the screen,” he said. “Now they’re saying it doesn’t matter. Sorry, I can’t accept that.”

During the SSA audit, paper ballots were run through a scanner in both audits. In each case, the paper ballots completely matched the initial voting machine count.

The SSA recount consists of the county’s elections office randomly selecting precincts within each of the four county council districts to meet the 2% mandated number.

The precincts selected were Allen Township South, Lower Saucon Township, Palmer Eastern and Lower Mount Bethel Township Upper, according to the county

The Department of State selects for the county the random batch of ballots for the Risk-Limiting Audit of the four candidates for Justice of the Superior Court.