The Laptop and USB Drives Stolen From the Philly Election Staging Area

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

A lot of attention is now focused on how the voting went down and how the ballots are being counted in the contested states.

But there was an incident in Philadelphia that occurred about a month before the election that is interesting to look back on now and wonder if it had impact on some of what we are trying to unravel now.

USB drives and a laptop were stolen from a Philadelphia city election staging warehouse from an employee of the company that made voting machines.

The city election commission pooh poohed the incident at the time, saying they didn’t think it would compromise anything and the company, Election Systems, said that they immediately cut the laptop off from the vendor’s network.

But a spokesperson for the company wouldn’t go into any questions about the stolen drives including how many were stolen and what was on them. The city election commission spokesperson refused to answer questions about whether any of the 3,750 ExpressVote XL touchscreen ballot-marking devices used by the city might have been affected.

From AP:

Election security expert Eddie Perez of the nonpartisan OSET Institute said Philadelphia voters’ confidence in the integrity of the election demands on transparency from officials that is so far lacking: “This is supposed to be a secured facility,” he said, “and apparently neither the county nor the election vendor adequately protected these sensitive assets. Why not?” [….]

“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.”

An “insider” bent on tampering with the election would only need to alter a subset of ballot-marking devices to compromise voting, Perez said.

Oh. Now you tell us. In the meantime they had no security and a radio reporter was able to walk right into the warehouse’s voting machine storage area after the theft without being stopped. Some security. They did add security after this all went down. But when they fail to answer further questions about concerns, that’s not reassuring, especially in light of the situation now.