Philadelphia is about to replace its aging voting equipment. This would be good news, except that the city’s election commission has omitted cybersecurity and disability access as relevant considerations in its Request for Proposals (RFP) to prospective vendors. The three-member commission appears poised to select as Philadelphia’s primary voting system the ExpressVote XL ballot-marking device, which the state of Pennsylvania has panned — on the issue of disability access. Procuring such a system would fly in the face of the consensus opinion among independent cybersecurity election experts, who recommend hand-marked paper ballots (counted on scanners or by hand) for most voters, not ballot-marking devices.
The Philadelphia commission, which includes two Democrats and one Republican, has not earned much confidence when it comes to election oversight, heightening worries that it may make a bad decision in selecting new voting equipment. In 2017, advocates charged that as many as 17,000 would-be voters might not have made it onto Philadelphia’s voter rolls despite filing timely applications. And in the 2018 midterm elections, it was reported that “at least seven voting locations opened late, and at least 13 other [Philadelphia] locations experienced voting machine problems.”
Philadelphia voters also complained of long lines. One of the commission’s members, Democrat Anthony Clark, has received substantial local media coverage for his failure to vote in five recent elections, including the 2012 presidential election, and for being AWOL at work. According to NBC10 in Philadelphia, Clark “keeps no public calendar, agenda, or attendance record. He doesn’t even have a computer on his office desk.”