Officials say they’re confident vote integrity has not been compromised.
A contractor’s laptop and several encrypted USB devices were stolen from Philadelphia’s election warehouse in the East Falls neighborhood sometime this week, the Inquirer reported Wednesday. Police are investigating, and election officials assure voters that voting integrity is in no way compromised by the theft. New machines implemented earlier this year all include a paper trail as an added security measure.
But a Thursday morning visit to the warehouse where the machines are stored revealed lax security measures.
This reporter was able to walk into the building and roam around unattended for several minutes before being asked to leave. He strolled past hundreds of voting machines, various boxes, and other unidentified equipment without seeing other people.
Eventually, the reporter stumbled upon a staffer in an office, who said press was not allowed in the building and escorted the reporter to the door, locking it behind him. The staffer declined to answer questions about security, or answer why it was so easy to enter. No security cameras were immediately visible, either inside or outside the building.
A security guard should have been stationed outside the door, said Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio. Reached by phone, Custodio said he did not know whether the guard was supposed to be there 24 hours or only during operating hours.
Custodio, who works for the Office of City Commissioners, which oversees elections in Philadelphia, said he would address the situation.
The warehouse is situated in a semi-industrial area surrounded by other warehouses in a neighborhood that’s tucked next to the Schuylkill River as it stretches northwest from Center City into Fairmount Park. Getting there requires navigating an out-of-the-way back road, and going to the back of a lot to find a nondescript brick building. No sign indicates there are election materials inside.
As the reporter left the warehouse, a guard was visible at the other side of the building. More staffers later arrived at the facility, with one taking up a station outside the door.
It’s so far unclear exactly what other materials are stored in the election machine warehouse. (Billy Penn has requested an inventory.) Rolled out last year to great hubbub and at a cost of $30 million, the new voting equipment leaves a paper ballot trail while also recording each person’s vote electronically.
Billy Penn has reached out to the city for more information on security protocols at the address.