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Pennsylvania county voting machines flipping votes for superior court retention races

The flipped votes will be corrected during tabulation.

Published: November 7, 2023 5:16pm

Voting machines in a Pennsylvania county are flipping votes for elections regarding whether two state appeals court judges should be retained, according to county officials.

Tuesday is Election Day in Pennsylvania for judicial positions and county, local, and municipal offices. However, county officials said that electronic voting machines are flipping votes in Northampton County for deciding whether Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges Jack Panella and Victor Stabile should remain on the bench for additional 10-year terms.

The office of Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure released a statement on Tuesday explaining the issue.

"It appears that when a voter selects a 'Yes' or a 'No' for one of the candidates for retention to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the selection is recorded on the paper ballot and on the machine for the other candidate," the county office wrote. "The issue is limited to the retention of Superior Court Judges, and is only an issue when recording the votes for when a voter selected a 'Yes' for one candidate and a 'No' for another candidate."

The office added that all poll workers were notified to tell voters before entering the voting booth about the issue with recording the court retention candidates. Voters are to be told "that the paper receipt will record their selection for retention to the Pennsylvania Superior Court one candidate to the other candidate," according to the county executive.

McClure said that all 300-plus of the county's voting machines are affected by the issue, which was caused by a coding error by voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the Associated Press reported. He added that the county’s elections staff missed the issue during testing of the voting machines.

The issue only affects the two retention votes and was first noticed by voters who checked the printed voting records that the touchscreen machines produced, according to McClure. He added that votes will be corrected during tabulation.

ES&S said it was at fault for the issue, which the company added was due to human error, according to the AP. The voting company also said that only Northampton County's judicial retention races are affected.

Following the discovery of the issue on Tuesday, the county obtained a court order that allowed the machines to still be used.

The Pennsylvania Department of State posted on X (formerly Twitter) about the voting machine issue.

"The Department of State became aware before 9 a.m. today of an issue in Northampton County related to the election for the two Superior Court retention candidates," the post reads. "Secretary Al Schmidt quickly contacted county election officials and offered the Department’s full support and assistance."

The department also said that no other races statewide were affected by the problem that Northampton County is experiencing, the AP reported.

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