Last Updated on November 8, 2023
ES&S, the voting machine company at the center of a Pennsylvania vote-flipping scandal during Tuesday’s 2023 elections, has a long history of election integrity issues, with reports of vote-flipping that date back nearly two decades across multiple states. A 2007 study found that ES&S touchscreen voting machines could be “maliciously calibrated” to flip votes in favor of specific candidates.
Elections were shut down on Tuesday in Northampton County, Pennsylvania when votes cast on touchscreen voting machines produced by ES&S were flipped from one option to another as voters decided whether or not to retain two Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges. Voting eventually resumed under a court order, with election officials chalking the vote-flipping up to a human coding error and claiming that they could accurately tally the flipped votes. Reports as of Wednesday evening say that both judges are expected to retain their positions on the court and now the jurisdiction is facing widespread accusations of running a deliberately soiled election.
Remarkably, Tuesday was far from the first time that ES&S touchscreen voting machines were found to be flipping votes, with reports of ES&S vote flipping dating back to 2006 and being vindicated in a 2007 study sponsored by the state of Ohio ahead of the 2008 Presidential Election, when ES&S machines were used in 20 states.
On the eve of the 2008 Presidential Election, Wired published a report on ES&S, revealing that the company’s touchscreen voting machines could be “maliciously calibrated to favor specific candidates” by way of vote flipping. At the time, more than 97,000 ES&S touchscreen voting machines were in use and Wired reported that voters “in a number of states” had reported problems with vote flipping.
“TOUCHSCREEN VOTING MACHINES at the center of recent vote-flipping reports can be easily and maliciously recalibrated in the field to favor one candidate in a race,” Wired reported, citing a study by computer scientists working on behalf of the state of Ohio.
“At issue are touchscreen machines manufactured by ES&S,” the report went on.
“…The process for calibrating the [ES&S] touchscreens allows poll workers or someone else to manipulate specific regions of the screen, so that a touch in one region is registered in another” Wired reported. “Someone attempting to rig an election could thus arrange for votes for one candidate to be mapped to the opponent.”
Furthermore, according to the 2008 Wired report, the same problem with ES&S voting machines was reported during a 2006 election, in Sarasota, Florida.