July 21 (Reuters) – Pennsylvania’s top election official has decertified the voting equipment of a rural county that participated in an audit of the 2020 election requested by a Republican state lawmaker and staunch ally of former President Donald Trump.
Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid said on Wednesday that Fulton County violated the state election code by giving a third party access to its election databases and other certified equipment in an audit of the 2020 results.
The audit was conducted in December at the request of Republican state Senators Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward, who asked county officials to allow Wake Technology Services Inc to probe the county’s results, according to media reports.
Degraffenreid’s announcement was the latest salvo in a battle between Mastriano, a promoter of Trump’s false stolen-election claims who is now waging an effort to conduct a wider “forensic investigation” into Trump’s loss in the state, and the administration of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
“These actions were taken in a manner that was not transparent,” Degraffenreid said. “As a result of the access granted to Wake TSI, Fulton County’s certified system has been compromised.”
Fulton County officials and Wake TSI, based outside of Philadelphia, did not respond to requests for comment. The company was at one point also involved in a contentious audit of the vote in Arizona.
Neither Mastriano nor Ward responded to an email seeking comment on Wednesday.
Degraffenreid said that Dominion Voting Systems, which leases tabulation machines to the county, also could not verify that its equipment was safe to use.
Fulton County received notification from Dominion that it was in violation of its contract and needed to pay $25,000 to lease new equipment for the May 2021 primary, the Fulton County News reported last month.
There has been no indication that the Fulton County audit turned up any irregularities.
Trump carried Fulton, a south-central Pennsylvania county of about 15,000 residents, with nearly 86% of the vote. But he lost Pennsylvania to Democratic President Joe Biden.
Republicans there and in other battleground states have pursued audits of the November election, repeating Trump’s baseless claims that widespread fraud cost him a second White House term.
Pennsylvania has already conducted a so-called risk-limiting audit of the 2020 election, and all counties also audited a sample of their votes as mandated by law. Neither effort turned up widespread fraud.
Mastriano has nevertheless argued that a more comprehensive probe involving the examination of equipment was needed. Earlier this month, he launched his “forensic investigation,” starting with requests to Tioga, Philadelphia and York counties for access to their voting machines.
Tioga’s three Republican commissioners have said they cannot comply, citing the likely cost to replace its machines. While Philadelphia has not commented on the matter, the Democratic stronghold is also expected to deny Mastriano’s request.
At a meeting on Wednesday, York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler said a letter had been sent to Mastriano seeking clarity on various issues, including what audit firm would be used and who would pay for it.
Wheeler warned that replacing all York’s voting equipment would cost more than $2.7 million, and said that “if there is support for a forensic analysis at the state level, it seems that all counties should be included” rather than just the current three.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Peter Cooney
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