PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Computer thumb drives used to program Philadelphia voting machines were stolen from a city warehouse along with the laptop of an employee from the machines’ manufacturer.
The items were stolen from a warehouse in the city’s East Falls section, city election commission spokesman Nick Custodio said in a brief emailed statement, adding: “We are confident that this incident will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported the theft in the majority Democratic city, said they were stolen this week.
Granger said she was not able to address specifics about the stolen USB drives, including how many were taken and what was on them. Custodio did not answer emailed questions, including whether any of the 3,750 ExpressVote XL touchscreen ballot-marking devices used by the city might have been affected.
Granger of ES&S said the companies’ USB devices use multiple levels of encryption and are “married” to single voting machines during programming. But Perez said that it’s so far unclear how far along Philadelphia was in programming for the Nov. 3 election — and thus how much of a threat the theft might pose.
“It is very, very common that a USB stick has a wealth of information that is related not only to the configuration of the election and its ballot — and the behavior of the voting device — but also internal system data used to validate the election,” said Perez. “In principle, someone possessing the information on one of these USBs could disrupt the opening and closing of the devices in polling places. They could disrupt how ballots are displayed on the screen and they could potentially disrupt counting votes on those ballots.”