Schmidt: DOS will ‘follow up’ with Northampton County following voting machine issue

DOS received approximately 900 calls to its voter hotline on Tuesday, according to Schmidt

By: - November 7, 2023 10:27 pm

Election Night Press Conference with Secretary of the Commonwealth, Al Schmidt on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.(Commonwealth Media Service photo).

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of State will be following up with local election officials in Northampton County after a “clerical error” caused confusion for voters and poll workers Tuesday morning. 

Speaking to reporters from the state Capitol on Tuesday night, Secretary of State Al Schmidt, who previously oversaw elections as Philadelphia City Commissioner, said the Commonwealth had conducted a “free, safe and secure election” despite “isolated issues.”

Schmidt said that the day’s “main issue” occurred in Northampton County, where a clerical error was reported to the Pennsylvania Department of State before 9 a.m. 

Northampton Co. officials said early morning voting machine issues a ‘clerical error’

The malfunction occurred in the Superior Court retention race where voters selected a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to vote for candidates to retain their seats. Schmidt said that despite the appearance of an incorrect vote for the opposite candidate, the vote was accurately tabulated.

“In short, Northampton County voters use a touchscreen to mark their selected candidates. After a voter makes their selections, a separate window displays a paper record of their selections so that the voter can verify that the paper record matches their on screen selections,” Schmidt explained. “The labeling error occurred on that paper record which made it appear as though the voter’s selections for the judicial retention questions for those two candidates were different than the voter’s attempt.”

Schmidt said the department will be following up with county election officials and the voting machine vendor to figure out why the issue was not flagged earlier. 

“While the county has assured voters that this issue will not affect the tabulation of votes, we will be following up with both Northampton County and ES&S in the coming days to determine why the error was not identified prior to Election Day,” Schmidt said. “It is important that the county and the vendor continue to be transparent after the election so that voters have confidence that a similar issue will not occur in the future.”

Voting was extended until 9 p.m. at one polling place in Radnor, Delaware County due to a bomb threat. 

Local law enforcement and election officials moved the polling place from inside Radnor High School to the elementary school to allow in-person voters to continue casting their ballots. 

“It’s really a matter of law enforcement in terms of their investigation of what occurred and the county election administration in moving those polling places,” Schmidt said. 

The Department of State notified voters of the relocation via a Facebook post.

DOS received approximately 900 calls to its voter hotline on Tuesday, according to Schmidt, who said the figure was “average” for a municipal election. While voter turnout will be reported in the days following the election, Schmidt said that counties received more than 1 million mail ballot applications for this election — more than 931,000 for no-excuse mail-in ballots and nearly 96,000 for absentee ballots. Of those, more than 76% had been returned as of 9 a.m. on Election Day.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.