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USB drives used to program Philadelphia voting machines have been stolen from city warehouse

A laptop was also stolen.

October 1, 2020 6:38pm

Updated: October 1, 2020 8:17pm

Memory sticks that are used to program Philadelphia voting machines have been stolen along with a worker's laptop, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The outlet reported that assurances have been made that the thefts from a city warehouse will not impair the integrity of the elections. "We are confident that this incident will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election," said Nick Custodio, who serves as a deputy to the chair of the city commissioners.

Custodio noted that the stolen laptop was remotely disabled after the crime had been uncovered. The missing device “did not have any of our election material on it,” he reportedly said.

The encrypted USB sticks are linked to specific voting machines, according to the outlet. “Upon programming, these encryption keys ‘marry’ the USB with the machine, and if placed in another machine, it will cause an error and the machine will not work,” a company spokesperson reportedly said.

“All voting systems have voter-verified paper ballots, which can be audited or recounted and are the official vote of record,” a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State said in a statement. “We are confident that Philadelphia, working with the department and our many partners, will be able to conduct a secure and fair election for its voters on Nov. 3.”

Workers have already started programming Philadelphia's voting machines for the upcoming election. The USB sticks are placed into the top of the machines, according to the Inquirer, which reported that some sticks record electronic votes for unofficial tallies on election night. 

Numbered seals are affixed following the programing of the machines, so that a breached seal would indicate that a device has been opened. Some machines were found to have incorrect seal numbers, though Custodio said it was thought this issue arose through a logging error.

Custodio noted that those devices, “will be thoroughly examined, wiped, and tested just to be sure.”

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