We Won the First Battle for Secure Voting Machines in Philly!

For weeks after the announcement that Philadelphia would soon be selecting new voting machines with little citizen oversight, MarchOnHarrisburg volunteers alongside volunteers from Neighborhood Networks, Citizens for Better Elections, League of Women Voters PA, and Indivisible have made phone calls, lobbied and testified at public hearings to show City Commissioners that Philly wants the most secure, reliable, and simplest form of voting: hand-marked paper ballots with an optical scanner.

Hand-marked paper ballots are:

  • The most secure from hacking

  • The least expensive

  • The most convenient (for voting by allowing multiple people to vote at the same time)

  • Endorsed by nonpartisan election integrity nonprofits the National Election Defense Coalition and Verified Voting as a primary voting system

Unfortunately, the Request for Proposal (RFP) being used in the selection process by Philadelphia City Commissioners have so far seemed to favor the ES&S ExpressVote XL, the least secure and most expensive machine.  This may be in part because City Commissioners has ignored cybersecurity and disability access as relevant considerations in the RFP.

Pennsylvania’s own certification report for the ExpressVote XL criticized the machine for confusing voters and being difficult for disabled voters, particularly for voters using audio settings.

On Monday, February 10, just days before the decision deadline, Pennsylvania Auditor General DePasquale held a press conference in Philadelphia to raise questions about the ethics of the City Commissioners' process for selecting the machines.

‘It does appear that [Request for Proposal] was written in favor of one vendor...,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General DePasquale.


DePasquale further criticized the process:

  • Did anyone from city government meet with a lobbyist from any of these companies applying for this contract?

  • Did anyone from city government receive a donation, or get taken to dinner by those that are applying for this contact?


Tim Brown, Nieg

On Tuesday, February 12, in the sleet and rain, MarchOnHarrisburg volunteers alongside volunteers from Neighborhood Networks, Citizens for Better Elections, League of Women Voters PA and Indivisible held a rally at city hall as a final emergency call to ask City Commissioners to listen to the people of Philadelphia before they made their announcement, previously scheduled for Wednesday, February 13.

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, clearly responding to the weeks of phone calls and testimonies, appeared at the rally to thank the activists for attending.

Candidates running for City Commissioner including Jen Devor and Omar Sabir also attended the rally.

The validity and integrity of our elections are fundamental to any trust between We the People and our government of, by, and for the people. If our ballot is not secure and accessible, then voting is meaningless and pointless. If our voting machines are not secure, then our civilization is a cruel farce.
— said Rabbi Michael Pollack, Executive Director of MoH during the event.

During the rally, organizers, poll workers and citizens concerned about democracy, spoke about the fundamental flaws within the RFP and the importance of secure voting machines.

Attendees held props, including giant pencils, a hand-marked paper ballot, and a large “You Can’t Hack This” sign.


Because of the efforts of these democracy organizations in Philadelphia, by the end of the business day, City Commissioners announced that they would be delaying their decision…


However, the fight for the most secure, reliable & simplest machines is far from over. We will continue to closely watch the selection process and demand that security, accessibility and transparency are central to the decision.

Read our joint demands for changes to voting machine decision process here.

Stay tuned for next steps, democracy warriors.  

Rachel Murphy