On Thursday, investigative journalist Max Marin walked into a Philadelphia warehouse where election machines are stored - walking around rows upon rows of the devices which apparently had zero security despite this week's headlines about stolen memory sticks.
City Commissioners told me this morning the stolen devices have been disabled & they do not compromise the integrity of the Nov. election.— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) October 1, 2020
When this video ends, I ran into an staffer who told me press can’t be in the building. I told him the door was open & I announced my name.
The staffer wouldn’t answer my questions about security. On the phone, Deputy City Nick Custodio told me that a security guard should be stationed there at all times now. He was not for some reason. I did see a security walking to the other end of the property when I pulled up.— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) October 1, 2020
There’s a man sitting in the door now, more staffers coming in and out of the building. I likely just walked in at a moment where no one is around, but the ease of access was still alarming to me. pic.twitter.com/YvZZhNiFoU— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) October 1, 2020
* * *
An investigation into potential election tampering has been launched in Philadelphia after several memory sticks and a laptop used to program voting machines were stolen from a city warehouse, officials confirmed on Wednesday. The laptop belonged to an on-site employee for the company that supplies the machines.
It is unclear when the equipment was stolen, however a Philadelphia Inquirer source says the items vanished last week.
And while City officials said on Wednesday that the theft would not disrupt voting on November 3, they worried behind the scenes that the theft would fuel theories from President Trump and his allies over the integrity of the city's elections.
Perhaps coincidentally, President Trump on Tuesday knocked Philadelphia for allegedly refusing to let poll watchers into voting locations. (The Inquirer says that's false)
Wow. Won’t let Poll Watchers & Security into Philadelphia Voting Places. There is only one reason why. Corruption!!! Must have a fair Election.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2020
City commissioners initially refused to confirm the theft, or that an investigation had been launched, according to the Inquirer - and only did so after the outlet told them that they would be reporting the incident based on sources who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
"Since being informed of the incident, I have immediately committed to making necessary police resources available to investigate this incident and find the perpetrators. I have also committed to the city commissioners additional resources to provide enhanced security at the warehouse going forward," said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. "This matter should not deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election."
Many details surrounding the stolen technology in Philadelphia remained unclear Wednesday, including how the equipment was taken, whether there are any suspects, and whether any machines had been compromised.
Custodio, the deputy to Deeley, said officials ensured the stolen laptop had been disabled remotely after the theft was discovered to prevent it from being used and added that it “did not have any of our election material on it.”
His statement did not address the stolen memory sticks, which are used to program the machines in advance of an election, including setting the design of the ballots. -Philadelphia Inquirer
The memory sticks are encrypted to prevent tampering, and are matched with individual voting machines, according to a spokesperson for the vendor, Election Systems & Software. "Upon programming, these encryption keys ‘marry’ the USB with the machine, and if placed in another machine, it will cause an error and the machine will not work."
Philadelphia has 3,750 of the ExpressVote XL touchscreen voting machines, and elections staff have begun programming them so they are ready to use on Nov. 3. The flash drives are inserted into the top of the machines; some of them are used to record the electronic votes used for unofficial results on election night, but it was unclear whether those stolen served that function.
Once a machine has been set up, it’s closed with a numbered seal. That means that any voting machines that are opened after being programmed should be identifiable because they would have broken seals. The commissioners have begun checking all the seals on the machines, which are numbered to prevent them from being opened and simply replaced, Custodio said, to ensure they have not been tampered with. -Philadelphia Inquirer
According to sources familiar with the investigation, officials found several voting machines with incorrect seal numbers, however Custodio said the discrepancies were likely due to a logging error in recording the numbers - adding that the machines "will be thoroughly examined, wiped, and tested just to be sure."
Read the rest of the report here.