Philly's new voting machines dominate budget hearings for City Commissioners

Philadelphia City Hall
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's new voting machines dominated the questions at Tuesday's budget hearing in City Council for the City Commissioners' office.  The City Commissioners' office has 100 employees and a $12 million budget that ordinarily would have been the topic of the hearing. But the office, under orders from the governor, recently purchased new voting machines and they have somehow become the target of extreme suspicion among some voters.  

Several dozen skeptics came to the hearing carrying signs protesting the selection of a touch screen rather than a hand-marked ballot. They were not deterred by Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio's testimony that the machines had been stringently vetted by state and federal experts. 

"Tests were done to insure the election results, media reports, audit logs were protected from attempts to decrypt, manipulate and change the election results or do any 'hacking,'" he said. 

Councilman Bill Greenlee asked Custodio leading questions in an apparent effort to assure the protestors the machines are safe. 

"There is a way to check on paper what you plan to vote for before the vote is cast, is that correct?" Greenlee asked Custodio.  "That is correct. In addition to that, Philadelphia is going to be one of two counties statewide piloting the new enhanced auditing procedures the department of state is developing," Custodio said. 

Council president Darrell Clarke is satisfied that they're safe and is mystified by the backlash. 

"Why do so many people think there's no paper trail, there's not ability to verify your vote?" Clarke asked Custodio. 

"I think there's a lot of misinformation out there," Custodio answered. 

He didn't seem to make much headway as protestors left as skeptical as when they came. But he believes demonstrations planned for this summer will help.

"The machine is very user-friendly so I think once people get a chance to use, I think public opinion will return," he added. 

Custodio testified because this is an election year for the commissioners, so traditionally they send their staff instead.