Pennsylvania Voting Machine Warehouse Broken Into, Laptop and USB Drives Stolen

An investigation is underway after a laptop and several USB drives, which are used to program voting machines, were stolen from a warehouse in Philadelphia.

Officials confirmed that the theft occurred at a warehouse at 3500 Scotts Lane in the East Falls neighborhood of the city. The warehouse was broken into on Tuesday night.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported the theft, the stolen laptop belonged to an on-site employee of the company that supplies the voting machines.

Nick Custodio, the deputy commissioner for chairwoman Lisa Deeley, who oversees elections in Philadelphia, told Newsweek that the laptop did not have any election material on it and is not able to program files for voting machines.

Custodio said the stolen USB drives were encrypted. He also said the laptop had security features to prevent unauthorized access and the employee's user account was disabled after the theft came to light.

"The laptop did not have any of our election material on it, and it is not able to program files for our machines," he said. "The laptop has security features to prevent unauthorized access and the user account has been disabled."

But he added officials were "rechecking all of the seals on the already tested machines" as a precaution. "This is currently an active police investigation and as such, we are not able to provide further details," Custodio said.

Custodio also insisted the incident would not affect the integrity of the November 3 election. "We are confident that this incident will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election," he said.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed to Newsweek that the department was investigating the theft, but directed questions to Mayor Jim Kenney's office.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, Kenney said: "Since being informed of the incident, I 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."

He added that the incident should not "deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election."

But according to the Inquirer, city officials were worried about how President Donald Trump and his supporters would frame the theft to cast doubt on the integrity of Philadelphia's elections.

The president mentioned the city by name during Tuesday's presidential debate, saying "bad things happen in Philadelphia." His claim during the debate that Republican poll watchers had been turned away by election staff in the city was false.

On Wednesday, the president's campaign threatened a lawsuit if it does not gain access for its campaign employees to observe activity inside newly opened satellite election offices in the city, where people can register to vote, apply for mail-in ballots and fill them out.

The Associated Press reported that a lawyer representing the Trump campaign sent a letter to officials on Tuesday, insisting the campaign has a legal right to observe the voting process in the largely Democratic city's satellite election offices.

Commissioner Omar Sabir, a member of Philadelphia's three-person city election board, told the AP that the agency was not changing its stance toward the Trump campaign.

Anyone with information about the warehouse theft is urged to contact Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS.

Voting
Voters cast their ballots at the Glen Lyon Italian American Sporting Club polling station during the 2018 Pennsylvania Primary Election on May 15, 2018 in Glen Lyon, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty Images