Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid has ordered voting machines in the state’s Fulton County to be decertified after officials allowed a third-party contractor to access data during a Republican-backed ballot audit, saying the machines can’t be verified as being safe to use in the future. 

“These actions were taken in a manner that was not transparent or bipartisan,” Degraffenreid wrote in a letter to county officials this week, reports The Washington Examiner. “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 Dominion Democracy Suite 5.5A voting system was used in the elections. Degraffenreid said that Wake TSI, the Pennsylvania software company hired for the audit, was allowed last December to examine the system’s “election database, results files, and Windows system logs,” despite having had worked largely with healthcare sector clients and having “no knowledge or expertise in election technology.” 

Former President Donald Trump carried Fulton County by about 8,000 votes but lost to President Joe Biden in Pennsylvania overall by more than 81,000 votes. 

The Washington Post reports the software company was contracted through a nonprofit group that had been run by pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell. 

Initially, Wake TSI reported to Fulton County officials, through a draft report, that the election had been “well run” and that it was “conducted in a diligent and effective manner.”

The final version of the report, however, revised that opinion, adding that “this does not indicate that there were no issues with the election, just that they were not the fault of the County Election Commission or County Election Director,” it read, listing five “issues of note” about the election, including the county’s voting machines.

Degraffenreid said in her letter to county officials that she did not “arrive at this decision lightly.”

“I have a statutory obligation to examine, evaluate and certify electronic voting systems,” she said. “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 audibility.”

Earlier this month, Degraffenreid warned all Pennsylvania counties that allowing third-party entities to have access to voting machines would result in the state decertifying them, and if that the mandate is ignored, the state will “not reimburse any cost of replacement voting” hardware.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, requested the audit from Fulton and two other counties, sending letters seeking information from the 2020 election, setting a deadline of July 31 and threatening to subpoena counties that didn’t comply. Fulton County is the only one known to have agreed to the request.

Meanwhile, another one of the targeted counties, GOP-controlled Tioga, says it will not allow third-party access to its voting machines. The county’s three commissioners announced the decision six days after receiving a sweeping, five-page request for access to documents, information, and equipment.

In June, Arizona’s Maricopa County said it would be replacing voting equipment that had been turned over to a private contractor during a GOP-commissioned 2020 election review. 

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