Voters in the swing county of Northampton, Pennsylvania, mostly moved on after their new touchscreen voting machines glitched during a down-ballot judge’s race in 2019.
But when a similar issue cropped up earlier this month, it triggered a backlash within the county — one that has left state and local election officials in this key swing state racing to restore voter confidence ahead of what could be another contentious presidential election.
“We’re at the peak of mistrust of one another, but until that subsides, counties like ours need to be nearly perfect, and I think this system allows us to do that,” County Executive Lamont McClure told POLITICO before Northampton certified the vote on Tuesday, arguing the glitch resulted from human error.
The debate playing out in Northampton comes as election officials across the country are still contending with the consequences of Donald Trump’s 2020 fraud claims, which often centered around how votes are counted at the local level. With Trump a current frontrunner for the Republican nomination, that skepticism could only mount….
The 2019 election was the first time Northampton used the touchscreen voting machines from Election Systems & Software. That year, a programming glitch caused the ES&S machines to significantly undercount the votes for the Democratic candidate in a local judges’ race. Then on Nov. 7 this year, Northampton residents who showed up at their local polling station found that printouts from the same devices didn’t match the votes they had submitted digitally for two down-ballot judges contests.
Like in 2019, county officials and ES&S have said the errors did not affect any votes or alter the outcome of the races — both uncompetitive, up-down votes on whether to retain state judges. They argue the machines themselves are highly reliable and not to blame, saying the problem was caused by a one-off human error in the programming.