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Lehigh Valley Election News

Northampton County Republicans look to postpone certification of election results

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Northampton County Republican Committee Chair Glenn Geissinger said he will call on the Elections Commission to hold off on certifying results from Election Day after widespread problems with the county's voting machines.

EASTON, Pa. — The chair of the Northampton County Republican Committee said Friday he will urge the county's Election Commission to hold off on certifying the results of this month's election after the county was plagued by voting machine errors.

In a text message Friday, Glenn Geissinger said he will ask the commission to use its subpoena powers to "conduct a full and thorough investigation into the matters of this election." He also called on the commission to use its authority to preserve the voting machines and all relevant records of the election.

The commission, which is tasked with overseeing the elections, is slated to meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday. No other commission meetings have been scheduled. However, the final audit of county election results won't occur until Friday, according to Brittney Waylen, a county spokeswoman.

Friday is also the deadline to certify election results, she said.

Legal issues

Geissinger has previously said his committee and the state Republican Party are reviewing their legal options over how to address the errors with the ExpressVote XL voting machines. Poll workers discovered on Election Day that the machines were printing paper ballots that did not match the selections voters made on the oversized touchscreens. The county and ES&S, its election machine vendor, later determined an ES&S programmer mislabeled the two Superior Court retention questions, causing their votes to be flipped on paper ballots.

Voting machines were shut down for hours across the county while the mistake was sorted out, forcing poll workers to rely on emergency paper ballots throughout the morning. More than 2,155 paper ballots were cast until a court order allowed the county to resume using the machines.

Geissinger said his party has collected more than 70 sworn affidavits from county voters who encountered challenges at their polling place on Election Day. These include cases of people who were told to come back later, which Geissinger called a violation of federal law.

"Accurate elections are the right of every American, and we will continue to pursue all reasonable avenues to hold this administration accountable for their part in ensuring that right," he said in a written statement.

Lack of 'imagination'

County Executive Lamont McClure has apologized for the error but has assured the public that election results are accurate. The digital ballots recorded by the voting machines were not flipped, he said, and all votes that were cast on Election Day will be counted.

McClure said the mistake should have been caught by the county's Logic and Accuracy Testing, a stress test meant to weed out any bugs in the machines. McClure said his staff lacked the imagination needed to recognize the error. While a state lawmaker has called on McClure to resign over the "fiasco", McClure called on ES&S to fire the programmer who made the mistake.

"I am very angry if even one person was turned away from the ballot and didn't come back to vote," McClure said during Wednesday's Beyond the Ballot special hosted by LehighValleyNews.com. "That's the county's fault, and we are right now investigating what we can do to make sure that doesn't happen again in the future."

Northampton County started using the ExpressVote XL machines in November 2019 but has already had problems with the devices in two general elections. During their first usage, poll workers found that 30% of the machines' touchscreens hadn't been calibrated, making it difficult to select candidates who appeared near the edges. The machines also failed to record digital votes for a county judicial candidate due to an ES&S programming error. The paper ballots printed by the machines correctly recorded the judicial race, however, allowing the county to salvage the election.

Questions for 2024

During Thursday's Northampton County Council meeting, Geissinger urged the council to end its contract with ES&S and use new machines for the 2024 presidential election. Voters are losing faith in the electoral system, he said, and the county cannot afford to stick with a company and system that has repeatedly failed voters.

"You need to move forward with a new voting system," Geissinger told council members Thursday night. "This is not a partisan issue. This is not Republican, Democrat, independent. This is about voter integrity and civil rights."

Its unclear who has final say on what machines will be used next year. In almost every county in Pennsylvania, that duty rests with the local board of elections. These independent bodies are tasked with overseeing accurate and fair elections. They pick what equipment their county will use from a list approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

However, Northampton County has ignored its Election Commission in the past.

In 2019, the commission passed a 4-0 vote of no confidence in the ExpressVote XLs, yet they've remained in use. In 2020, the county adopted an electronic poll book in 2020 that the commission voted against.

McClure argued at the time that because Northampton County has a Home Rule Charter, it does not operate the same way as other counties. He has described the commission as an advisory body, saying he and county council are not beholden to it like other counties would be.

The Home Rule Charter does not use the term advisory when describing the Election Commission.