Voting machine memory sticks were stolen in Philadelphia, prompting an investigation into whether the machines were compromised.
“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,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “This matter should not deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election.”
In addition to the memory sticks, a laptop that belonged to an Election Systems & Software employee was also stolen from the warehouse in East Falls. Election Systems & Software supplies the voting machines for the area.
The stolen flash drives are encrypted and are made to work with a specific voting machine.
City commissioners initially did not confirm the theft, and only validated the report after the Philadelphia Inquirer said it was publishing an article on the incident.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported: “Behind the scenes, [city commissioners] fretted about how President Donald Trump and his allies might use the news to cast doubt on the integrity of the city’s elections.” The outlet added that the president advanced “false claims and conspiracy theories” during the debate concerning voter fraud.
Trump has been an outspoken critic of mail-in balloting, citing its vulnerability to fraud, a stall on a final count, and instances in which mail-in balloting has caused issues — such as in New York City, when more than 80,000 mail-in ballots were disqualified during primary season due to various issues.
The president urged New Yorkers to vote in person this week after more than 100,000 ballots in New York City and Long Island were sent to voters with printing errors.
“Wow! 100,000 Mail In Ballots in New York City a total MESS. Mayor and Governor have no idea what to do. Big Fraud, Unfixable! Cancel Ballots and go out and VOTE, just like in past decades, when there were no problems!” he tweeted Wednesday.
The report of the theft in Philadelphia comes after the Center for Tech and Civic Life donated $10 million to the city to ensure it had enough staff, training, and equipment amid fears over the pandemic, and to handle an increase in mail-in ballots.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan made headlines for donating $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which helped the group donate to cities across the country.
The couple said at the time of the announcement that “many counties and states are strapped financially and working to determine how to staff and fund operations that will allow for ballots to be cast and counted in a timely way.”
Despite the theft, city officials said it won’t affect the integrity of the election
“We are confident,” said Nick Custodio, a deputy to the chairwoman of the city commissioners, “that this incident will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election.”