By Lisa Deeley
The peaceful transition of power that follows a lively exchange of points of view and the results of public elections is the keystone that holds our democracy together. For that peaceful transition to happen, the people need to trust in the process and outcome of those elections.
My office is working hard to ensure that the election on Nov. 8 is transparent, fair, and occurs without issues.
Recently, the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, was quoted in the press telling supporters in Central Pennsylvania that the only way he could lose Pennsylvania is "if in certain sections of the state they cheat." He doubled down on this claim in Wilkes-Barre, and singled out Philadelphia as the place where he thinks the election will be "stolen."
Since Pennsylvania has been called a "tipping point state," I want to assure the voters of the city, the citizens of the United States, and those watching around the world that, in Philadelphia, our voting is secure and that there are statutory checks and enforcement in place to prevent "cheating."
I want to address concerns about our voting machines and allegations that they are susceptible to being "hacked." This notion has been suggested by nationally known figures, including some in the media. I took these concerns very seriously and consulted with our manufacturer on the design of our voting machines and with the career professionals in our office. After investigating, I can confidently say that the voting machines in Philadelphia cannot be hacked.
Each voting machine is a stand-alone, closed system that is not connected to any other machine, device, or the internet, and does not contain any wireless capabilities whatsoever. They do not have any open ports or capability to accept outside media or be made accessible to external sources; they are completely secure and sealed from outside access. Furthermore, our poll workers and inspectors are trained and instructed to make sure the numbered seals on the machines are not broken in order to assuage any concerns of physical tampering before the opening of the polls.
In the ordinary process, after polls close, the voting machine data cartridges are collected and transported in sealed bags by Philadelphia police officers to the Board of Elections. The results that appear online are the unofficial tabulation, use a read-only copy of election-machine results, and are completely separate from the official election tabulation and official certification process. Each machine contains a data cartridge, and internal memory backup for additional security. The results are audited and compared to the paper printout from the machines and to the poll books to assure that the numbers match up.
The real concern that I have is not the manipulation of election results; it is voter suppression efforts. While we work with the Sheriff's and District Attorney's Offices to deal with individuals who attempt to suppress the vote, the reality is that it is a reactionary process and we cannot undo the damage that is done before the authorities arrive.
Similarly, the Trump campaign's call for its supporters from all over the country to come to Philadelphia and "watch" our election is not helping matters.
To further these efforts, lawmakers from other parts of the state attempted to fast-track House Bill 29, flawed legislation that would have allowed people from outside of Philadelphia County to come into our neighborhoods and our election precincts and to challenge voters at our polling places. With that legislation seemingly stalled, the GOP has decided to try to route this change through the court system. Should either avenue be successful, it could allow these poll watchers to disrupt, intimidate, and unnecessarily dissuade voters, as well as purposefully create time burdens for our qualified electors to cast their vote.
The Office of the City Commissioners is working around the clock to ensure a successful, fair, and transparent election in November. I am proud to say that our efforts are nonpartisan. Accordingly, I will admonish any candidate or campaign that attempts to prevent a smooth election.
It has been an exciting year, and we are now coming up on the homestretch. Please make sure you come out and vote on Nov. 8. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lisa Deeley is a Philadelphia city commissioner. Lisa.Deeley@phila.gov