Why We Can't Relax About This One Glitchy Voting Machine in Pennsylvania

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There's a viral video going around of a voting machine in Pennsylvania that seems like its rigged—it switches votes from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney. It's just one machine, but it's also perfectly encapsulates people's Election Day fears.  Here's the video:

And from the description on Youtube: 

From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not. I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said "It's nothing to worry about, everything will be OK." and went back to what she was doing. 

Wait what?  "Everything will be ok?" That's a line fit for that really mean lady in Misery and the passage has all the elements needed for a voting machine horror story—a perennial fear for Democrats since 2004 when Diebold became a familiar name on political blogs. And it's already set Reddit on fire with some 37,000+ upvotes (the way Redditors tell people they like something).

Because the Internet works this way, the video is now setting Twitter on fire, with users calling for voter fraud (those Yahoo links are to a report of the video): 

And that's sort of expected. You see, it seems that this year (like every other presidential election year) we're being bombarded with stories of voter fraud and voter suppression. This whole year we've been inundated with stories of tying Republicans, like one Republican leader in Pennsylvania who said in June that voter ID rules would help Mitt Romney win the vote, and voter suppression together. And this glitchy machine hits on those same nerves that news stories do when they release reports on the  terrible voting bungle that Florida is experiencing.

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What it comes down to is this: Mitt Romney needs Pennsylvania to win an election he's expected to lose. This one machine is one way he could do that. 

And that anomaly is making people nervous even though there is evidence that we should probably calm down:

Expert Opinion: It's a Bad Machine, Not a Romney-rigged One

"It's a concern but not because of fraud... that's an obviously miscalibrated iVotronic (ES&S) voting machine... we would recommend that poll workers would recalibrate the machine and everything would be fine," Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a  Senior Staff Technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology told Gawker today when they showed him the video.  "Also, with some models of voting system if you place a thumb on accident while resting on the machine it can 'bias' the calibration of the touchscreen up towards the errant thumb. That could be happening to, if it's only for this one voter." he added. 

Witness: No One Else Experienced a Problem

"I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not." those are the words from the guy who filmed the wonky machine. And from his account he made it seem like it other people didn't have any problems voting for Obama. If you were really concerned about this wonky machine, why wouldn't you kick and scream until someone paid attention? And why wouldn't you alert the voters behind you? And no one really knows if the voters behind Centralpavote had the same problem. 

This Machine Will Get Balanced Out by the "Obama-Rigged Ones"

This isn't the only glitchy machine. Nick Bechtel of the Marion Star in Ohio reported on Halloween that there were people trying to vote for Romney and a similar thing happened to them. "Joan Stevens was one of several early voters at the polls on Monday. But when Stevens tried to cast her ballot for president, she noticed a problem," Bechtel wrote. "Upon selecting “Mitt Romney” on the electronic touch screen, Barack Obama’s name lit up. It took Stevens three tries before her selection was accurately recorded," he added.  And Glenn Beck's conservative-leaning Blaze reported on Wednesday that similar things were happening in Kansas.

This Whole Thing Relies on the Americans Not Paying Attention

Have you no faith in your fellow man or woman? Do you think that someone who waited in line for hours to vote is going to just not care who the machine says they're voting for? That's sort of what this whole idea of this one machine is hinging on: that people won't pay attention that they're voting for Romney. And paying attention is basically Hall's advice to Gawker: 

The number-one recommendation I can make is make sure voters "check their work"; that is, if you're voting on a voting machine, it will usually summarize your selections on a final screen before you cast your vote (and if there is a paper trail-a printer on the side, be sure to carefully make sure it prints your choices correctly)

As of right now, Centralpavote hasn't released his name or where this is faulty machine lives. But he is talking to media and there's probably going to be a story on it soon which will give us something more to work with if this is a very serious problem. And as other on Reddit and Twitter have already pointed out, if this really is the work of the Romney campaign, and if he and the RNC rigging the votes electronically, why would they even bother telling you?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.