PA GOP State Senate Leaders Push Back Against ‘Aggressive’ Decertification of Rural County’s Voting Machines

This January 6, 2020 file photo shows election officials counting votes for Fulton County for the Georgia Senate runoff. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images

Republican State Senators in Pennsylvania pushed back Thursday against last week’s decision by the Acting Secretary of State to decertify the voting machines of Fulton County, a small rural county that cooperated with a request to provide forensic audit information from the 2020 general election.

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Greensburg) and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) released a joint statement on Thursday, “regarding the Department of State’s announcement that voting machines in Fulton County would be decertified.”

Ward and Corman said in the statement:

The directive by the Pennsylvania Department of State to decertify the voting machines from Fulton County is another aggressive move by the department that shines a light on Acting Secretary Degraffenreid’s ‘we know better’ approach to managing the election process. It demonstrates a continued pattern of rogue decisions by the Department of State to erode – not protect – individual voting rights and undermines the role of counties in our elections.

The Acting Secretary’s decision is a coercive act to strong-arm county election practices in an attempt to take voting oversight away from County Election Boards, a move not based in fact or in law. This antagonistic act can’t help but to leave all Pennsylvanians questioning if their voting rights are being violated regardless of party by creating roadblocks that generate mistrust in our Commonwealth’s election process.

Two days earlier, on Tuesday of last week, Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid informed counsel for the Fulton County Board of Elections in a letter that she was decertifying the county’s voting machines used in the November 2020 election because they “were subjected to a post-election review by a third-party in violation of Pennsylvania’s Election Code.” The letter said:

Pennsylvania’s Election Code vests in each bipartisan county board of elections the authority and duty to maintain proper chain of custody of official ballots, balloting materials and voting systems before, during, and after each election. These requirements ensure that any official tabulation, recount, or election contest is conducted transparently in a manner that does not put at risk this critical election infrastructure.

The Department of State takes steps prior to the certification of a voting system to verify that the system successfully completes penetration testing, access control testing and vulnerability testing to ensure that every access point and all software and firmware is protected from tampering. Once a system is certified, the voting system vendor is then permitted to supply the voting system and counties are permitted to procure that system for use in Commonwealth elections, subject to the conditions of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s certification report.

Following delivery of a certified and procured system, the county is supposed to independently perform acceptance testing on the system. Thereafter, the equipment and software are expected to remain under the full control of the county.

As you have confirmed through our correspondence, Fulton County officials allowed Wake TSI, a company with no knowledge or expertise in election technology access to certain key components of its certified system. Fulton County officials permitted Wake TSI employees to access their “election database, results files, and Windows system logs.” Further, the county allowed this third-party entity to use some type of “system imaging tool to take complete hard drive images of these computers” and “complete images of two USB thumb drives” used to transfer results files from their voting system computers to the computers used to upload results to the state’s voter registration and election results reporting system. These actions were taken in a manner that was not transparent or bipartisan.

“As a result of the access granted to Wake TSI, Fulton County’s certified system has been compromised,” the Acting Secretary of State continued, adding:

Due to these actions and after careful consideration, under the authority granted to the Secretary of Commonwealth under Sections 1101-A through 1122-A of the Pennsylvania Election Code, I have no other choice but to decertify the use of Fulton County’s [leased voting machines].

Fulton County, a small rural county with a population of 14,540, allowed Wake TSI access to its election equipment in December 2020 and January 2021 in response to a request made for that access by State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin).

“Fulton County commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch voted to allow WAKE TSI to complete the absentee ballot portion of the 2020 election results review at their weekly meeting last Tuesday. Commissioner Paula Shives voted no at the Jan. 12 meeting,” The Fulton County News reported on January 20.

Degraffenreid’s actions were seen by Republicans as a political attack on the the efforts of State Sen. Mastriano to conduct a forensic election audit of several Pennsylvania counties similar to the audit currently being conducted by the Arizona State Senate of the Maricopa County, Arizona, 2020 election results.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this month:

Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid told all 67 counties in the state on Thursday not to comply with a request for “information and materials needed to conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 General Election,” made Wednesday by State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), who chairs the Intergovernmental Operations Committee.

Mastriano’s initial request was sent to only three counties–Philadelphia (population 1.5 million), Tioga (population 40,000), and York (population 451,000). The population of the state is 12.8 million.

Philadelphia County and York County both subsequently said they will not comply with the State Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s information requests.

On Friday, Sen. Mastriano stood at the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania and delivered a speech in which he questioned why Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) is afraid of transparency and continues to oppose his efforts to conduct forensic election audits in Pennsylvania counties.

 

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