Federal lawsuit over Pa.’s voting machines set for its first hearing in Philly | Tuesday Morning Coffee

By: - February 18, 2020 7:06 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The first court proceeding in a pair of lawsuits challenging Pennsylvania’s decision to certify voting machines that are among the most expensive, and critics say, the least secure, gets underway in federal court in Philadelphia at 10 a.m. this morning.

If you’re planning to attend, bring comfy shoes and clothes, the proceeding could last all day.

The plaintiffs in the federal proceeding have asked a judge to enforce the settlement agreement in Stein v. Cortez, a legal action filed by 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein requiring the state to certify only voting systems that provide a voter-verifiable paper ballot and can be audited,” the advocacy group, Protect Our Vote Philly, said in an email sent out ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing.

The plaintiffs in Tuesday’s proceeding, who are led by Stein, have argued that the state violated the settlement agreement by certifying the ExpressVote XL machines, which were purchased by elections officials in Philadelphia, as well as in Northampton and Cumberland counties, impacting about one in six Pennsylvania voters, according to Protect Our Vote Philly.

Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The legal action in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia is expected to “revolve around what the settlement agreement was intended to require, and whether there is sufficient evidence that the machines fail to meet those requirements,” Protect Our Vote Philly wrote in its email blast. “The plaintiffs will also have to answer the defendants’ argument that the delay in filing the case was prejudicial — that is, why they filed their complaints when they did, rather than earlier.”

Municipal and judicial contests in Northampton County last November were marred by irregularities that included problems with “tabulation and overly sensitive touchscreens,” the Associated Press reported last December (via LehighValley Live).

Two election groups, joined by 13 registered voters from Philadelphia and Northampton County, filed a separate lawsuit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the AP reported.

More, from the AP:

“The lawsuit asks the state Commonwealth Court to block Pennsylvania’s certification of the ExpressVote XL system made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software (ES&S). Northampton County purchased 320 of the new machines earlier this year under a $2.88 million contract, to comply with a state mandate to begin creating a paper-ballot trail of votes.

The plaintiffs say the voting system can’t ensure that each vote is properly recorded and counted, doesn’t allow voters to keep their choices secret, doesn’t offer equal access to disabled voters and uses ballot cards that don’t comply with state requirements.”

The plaintiffs in that action, NEDC v. Boockvar, “have filed an amended complaint after withdrawing their motion for a preliminary injunction to decertify the machines,” Protect Our Vote Philly (which is not a plaintiff in either lawsuit) noted in its email.

The amended complaint seeks to “ensure that all Pennsylvania voters are using legal voting systems as soon as possible and to achieve this in the most orderly and expedient manner possible … it is of the utmost importance to Petitioners that the ExpressVote XL is decertified before the November 2020 general election, not on a preliminary basis but on a permanent one,” according to the filing.

The meter is running. Pennsylvania voters head to the polls on April 28 to cast ballots in a high-stakes primary election.

Our Stuff.
A cash-strapped western Pennsylvania school district Ran. Out. Of Paper. Fortunately, the community stepped up to help. But as Capital-Star Pittsburgh Correspondent Kim Lyons points out, this is no feel-good story. It’s an indictment of a school funding system so broken that makes it possible for something like this to happen.

The distribution of white supremacist propaganda reached a historic high in 2019. Associate Editor Cassie Miller breaks down the data in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

Democrats in Allegheny County somehow managed to endorse a Trump supporter over the weekend, even as they lined up behind incumbent state Rep. Summer Lee’s primary challenger. Charlie Deitch, from our partners at the Pittsburgh Current, has the story.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: A family of four in Philadelphia needs to earn $68K a year just to make ends meet.

On our Commentary Page, Joe Minott of the Clean Air Council has some thoughts on the clown car public hearing that a Pa. House panel recently held on RGGI.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and a proponent of Medicare for All

A Philadelphia woman has resigned her post with Pennsylvania’s Young Democrats, saying she’s been a victim of bullying by Bernie Bros, the Inquirer reports.
Pennsylvania, per capita, has the most premature deaths from air pollution than any other state, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.
The Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival will move from Scranton to Kutztown, the Morning Call reports (via the Scranton Times-Tribune).
So, as it turns out, allowing wine sales in grocery stores has not killed Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor storesPennLive explains (paywall).

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:


WHYY-FM wonders whether Pennsylvania’s 43K new citizens will tilt the balance in the 2020 election.
Stateline.org looks at the risk that impaired bus drivers pose to your kids’ safety.
Infrastructure Week‘ has come to the 2020 campaign trailRoll Call reports.

What Goes On.
Budget hearings get underway this morning. We’ll be running the full schedule every day, for your planning purposes.
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: A rally to save Scranton schools.
12 p.m., Media Center: Rep. Jake Wheatley formally rolls out his cannabis legalization plan.

House Appropriations Committee — all meetings in Room 140 Main Capitol
10 a.m.: Dept. of Revenue/Pa. Lottery
1 p.m.:  Independent Fiscal Office
3 p.m.:  Dept. of Aging

Senate Appropriations Committee — all meetings in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building
10 a.m.: Independent Fiscal Office
1 p.m.: Dept. of Revenue/Pa. Lottery
3 p.m: Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Jason Ortitay. Admission runs $300 to $750.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a classic from The Libertines. It’s ‘Don’t Look Back Into the Sun.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
scored five goals in the third period to rally past Anaheim 6-4 on Monday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.