As attention turns toward the next presidential election, the integrity of each and every vote is top of mind in cities, counties, and townships across the nation. The City of Philadelphia is no different.
And most certainly, Philadelphia voters deserve to know how their votes will be protected as they cast their ballots. To do that, facts must be sorted from fiction. There’s been a lot of fiction spread about Philadelphia’s new voting machines. This disregard for facts comes at a tenuous time and creates the potential for distrust of one of the inalienable rights our nation offers: citizen participation in our electoral process.
It’s time to set the record straight about how your vote will be cast and counted in Philadelphia’s next election.
First, the City of Philadelphia selected its new voting machines based on quantitative scoring. A selection committee evaluated all qualifying equipment and scored the ES&S ExpressVote XL highest based on a combination of technical merit and cost. This ballot-marking machine is similar to what Philadelphians are familiar with using, yet it is updated with newer security technology, and it produces an independent voter-verifiable paper record. The ExpressVote XL meets Gov. Tom Wolf’s directive that all machines provide a physical paper record of votes that are cast.
Second, this system has been tried, tested, and proven. The ExpressVote XL has been through hundreds of thousands of hours of testing, was certified by the Federal Election Assistance Commission, andthen certified by the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS), meeting both federal and state voting systems standards. After petitioners made claims about the machine’s functionality and security, the DOS brought in a team of experts — scientists and others knowledgeable with cybersecurity — to thoroughly reexamine the security, accuracy, and reliability. We welcomed this additional testing. All voters deserve to have confidence their votes count as cast. For the second time, the ExpressVote XL voting machine was certified by the DOS. No claims made by the petitioners were found to be true.
What’s more, thousands of Philadelphians have already had an opportunity to try the new machines during hundreds of demonstrations around the city. The feedback from every neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive. This same sentiment has been expressed in jurisdictions across the state and nation that have selected our equipment. This matters, because if voting equipment isn’t easy to use, doesn’t instill confidence in accuracy and security, or doesn’t provide accessibility to all voters, it’s not doing its job.
Third, no matter how large or small the jurisdiction, our employees at ES&S work tirelessly to support election officials, ensuring the integrity of every vote cast in every race, in every election. Our principles and ongoing commitment to election security, accuracy, and accessibility ring especially true in Philadelphia, as we work with election staff, community members, and voters every day across this great city. That is our reason for being.
We welcome questions, comments, and criticisms of our equipment. We value opinions. Voter and election officials’ input drives us to continually improve our products. What we don’t relish, however, is misinformation about our equipment or our company. In the end, misrepresentation of facts only harms the voters of Philadelphia and our nation’s electoral process.
The cornerstone of democracy is participation in elections. We are humbled to do our part in making participation possible, and we are proud to work alongside the City of Philadelphia to provide its citizens a secure and accessible way to participate in the democratic process.
Chris Wlaschin is vice president of systems security for Election Systems & Software, the technology firm behind Philadelphia’s new voting machines.