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Viral ‘Rigged’ Voting Machine Video Actually User Error

This post has been updated and expanded.

A video being passed around on Twitter has lit the fuse under claims of a “rigged” election, as a voter repeatedly tries — and fails — to vote for Trump. No matter how hard the voter pushes, the machine won’t change the ballot from Clinton.

The video has picked up over 11,000 retweets after six hours online, and published by a number of blogs and websites as suspicious or as evidence of fraud. But the machine is working exactly as it should.

Polling stations in Philadelphia, where the voter filmed the clip, use a Danaher Shouptronic voting machine. An instructional video on YouTube shows users need to re-press any button to cancel their selection, before making their choice again.

So, if he had pressed the button for Trump and then tried to change to Clinton, he would have to deselect Trump first.

We interviewed the voter, who goes by the handle Adonis Bravo. He said he reported the issue to the supervising staff at his polling station and workers "pressed a couple of buttons to reset the whole thing.” He then made his preferred choice for president without issue.

“I don’t think it’s concrete evidence,” of electoral fraud or foul play, he said, but it “adds some insight into how people come to those conclusions.”

"The example in the Pennsylvania video demonstrates the proper function for this machine which is preventing a voter from attempting to vote for two candidates in one race," said Tammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, who served as a commissioner on the President's commission on election administration.

"The way this machine is designed, is a voter has to deselect the cnadidates they've selected before making a new choice."

A video from Louisiana purporting to describe similar problems has been viewed more than 2.8 million times. In the video, the voter successfully selects Clinton and third-party candidate Gary Johnson, but is unable to select Trump.

"I have never had a machine where I had to hold the button down for four seconds before it counted my vote," said Tammy Procell Self, who recorded the Louisiana video.

Meg Casper, press secretary at Louisiana Secretary of State, told ProPublica a technician could not "recreate the problem" the voter was experiencing, but did replace the button on the machine.

"She was able to vote the way she wanted to vote," said Casper.

Patrick said the video also showed evidence of problems with how the machine was set up.

"The Louisiana video is a calibration issue because the cross should be in the box," she said, not next to it, as the video shows. "But calibration can be an intermittent issue," she added.

"It's really critical to keep in mind this voting equipment was manufactured to standards that predate the iPhone."

Last year new voting system standards were approved and are currently being incorporated into the next generation of voting machines.

These machines are "far more intuitive", Patrick said, "reflect the technology we interact with in our day-to-day lives."

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Portrait of Annie Waldman

Annie Waldman

Annie Waldman is a reporter at ProPublica covering education.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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