WHYY reporter Max Marin had no problem gaining access to the East Falls warehouse that holds Philadelphia’s voting machines, strolling in through an open door on Thursday morning – the day after election officials admitted sensitive materials had recently been stolen from the facility and vowed to step up their security.
The journalist posted a video to Twitter showing rows and rows of silent voting machines and no human beings, or security cameras, in sight. After an impromptu tour of the facility, Marin reported he did finally encounter an employee, who told him to leave as press was not allowed in the building but refused to answer any security-related questions.
A laptop and USB devices were stolen sometime this week from the Philadelphia’s elections storage warehouse.
I went over this morning to check out the security situation. I was able to walk right into the voting machine storage unit, alone, for several minutes. pic.twitter.com/N0SpMMKP6T
— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) October 1, 2020
In response to Marin’s report, city officials promised enhanced security measures including a round-the-clock police detail, a major increase in on-site security personnel, and stringent log-in and log-out procedures. A spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pledged to implement the upgrades “expeditiously.”
“Strict adherence” to existing security policy would also be part of the upgrade, city spokesperson Mike Dunn told local media. Deputy Elections Commissioner Nick Custodio claimed a security guard was already supposed to be outside the door Marin used to enter, though he admitted he did not know whether the guard was there 24 hours or just when the facility was open.
Multiple encrypted USB sticks used to program the machines and a laptop belonging to a contractor from the machines’ manufacturer were recently stolen from the same facility. The theft, which sources told local media happened earlier this week, wasn’t made public until Wednesday. It was also followed up by a promise from the city’s government to implement stronger security measures.
Philadelphia officials have hastened to reassure the public that the integrity of the elections system had not been compromised. However, it was discovered that several of the numbered seals placed on the voting machines after they were programmed to ensure they remained unmolested did not match the machines themselves, an anomaly elections official Nick Custodio blamed on a “logging error” rather than actual tampering.
While the adoption of increased security only after Marin documented the absence of locks and cameras might be seen as too little, too late by some, it seems to be typical for Philadelphia election officials, who refused to even confirm that the recent voting equipment theft had taken place until local paper the Philadelphia Inquirer warned they would be publishing a story on it with or without their input.
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