Pennsylvania decertifies county’s voting system after audit

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Pennsylvania’s top election official has decertified the voting machines of a small southern county that disclosed that it had agreed to requests by local Republican lawmakers and allowed a software firm to inspect the machines as part of an “audit” after the 2020 presidential election.

Acting Secretary of State Veronica W. Degraffenreid has informed the Fulton County Board of Elections that she has decertified the county’s voting system for future elections because it was subjected to a post-election review by a third party in violation of Pennsylvania’s Election Code.

“I have a statutory obligation to examine, evaluate and certify electronic voting systems,” Secretary Degraffenreid said in a July 20, 2021, letter to the county. “These reviews include verifying that the voting system conforms to federal and state law and any regulations or standards regarding confidentiality, security, accuracy, safety, reliability, usability, accessibility, durability, resiliency, and auditability.”

The action by Degraffenreid almost certainly means that Fulton County will have to buy new voting machines or, as it did in the May primary election, lease new ones. Degraffenreid notified Fulton County officials in a letter Wednesday that the inspection by a firm with “no knowledge or expertise in election technology” violated state law.

Earlier this year, Fulton County officials allowed Wake TSI to access certain key components of its certified system, including the county’s election database, results files, and Windows systems logs.

They report that the county officials also allowed the company to use a system imaging tool to take complete hard drive images of these computers and other digital equipment. 

“These actions were taken in a manner that was not transparent,” the Secretary said in her letter. “As a result of the access granted to Wake TSI, Fulton County’s certified system has been compromised and neither Fulton County, the vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, nor the Department of State can verify that the impacted components of Fulton County’s leased voting system are safe to use in future elections.”

The third-party access to Fulton County’s voting system undermined the chain of custody requirements and strict access limitations necessary to prevent both intentional and inadvertent tampering with electronic voting systems.

The unauthorized access prevents the vendor from affirming that the system continues to meet state and federal certification standards.

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