Election officials scrambled to investigate the theft from an East Falls warehouse and make sure the machines would not be compromised on election day, after city authorities confirmed the theft to the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. They initially refused to do so, according to the Inquirer, until the paper told them it intended to run the story based on anonymous sources briefed on the incident.
“This matter should not deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election,” Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, said in a statement.
— Jeremy Roebuck (@jeremyrroebuck) September 30, 2020
As of Wednesday evening, it wasn’t clear when exactly or how the equipment was taken, if there are any suspects, or how the missing technology might be used. The memory sticks are used to program the machines ahead of the election, including setting the design of the ballots. Some of them are also used to tally the electronic votes for unofficial result reporting. It was unclear which of the memory sticks were taken.
The laptop itself is not used in programming the machines, but belonged to the on-site employee of Election Systems & Software, the Nebraska-based company that supplies Philadelphia’s voting machines. The account on it was locked to prevent misuse, the authorities said.
Parallel to dealing with the theft, the Inquirer noted Philadelphia officials were also “working to contain the fallout for fear of how President Donald Trump and his allies might use the news to cast doubt on the integrity of the city’s elections.”
Philly Election Official says City Hall is NOT a public building!! TRUMP observer thrown out of City Hall! what are they doing?? pic.twitter.com/QufmAfdSIA
— Mike Roman (@mikeroman) September 30, 2020
On Wednesday, a Trump campaign staffer posted a video of being denied access to the Election Commission offices and told it was not a “public place.” The campaign also cited the incident in a lawsuit seeking poll watcher access to satellite sites where early voting is taking place. The Inquirer said Trump “falsely” claimed the poll watchers were being blocked, saying they were not yet “certified” in Philadelphia.
This is the letter sent on behalf of The Trump campaign threatening a lawsuit against The City by Weds if Trump poll watchers cannot gain access to satellite election offices. pic.twitter.com/sb89FIgJXt
— Annie McCormick (@6abcAnnie) September 30, 2020
Democrats have pushed for universal mail-in voting for months, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has pointed out that changing the rules and methods for tallying votes on short notice is leaving the election open to potential fraud. The party, and their nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, have been putting pressure on social media platforms to censor any criticism of voting methods as disinformation.
Philadelphia is overwhelmingly Democrat. Trump carried Pennsylvania in 2016 by a slim margin of votes over Hillary Clinton.
Earlier this week, the conservative outlet Project Veritas published a video of a staffer for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) ballot-harvesting and promising money for mail-in votes. Omar has denied that the man works for her.
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