Pa. Supreme Court delays Fulton County election review

By: - January 14, 2022 12:37 pm

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a Sept. 15, 2021 Senate hearing to approve subpoenas for a legislative investigation of the 2020 election as panel chair Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, listens (Capital-Star photo).

(*This story was updated at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 1/14/22, to include additional reporting.)

A third-party inspection of Fulton County voting machines, scheduled for Friday as part of the Senate’s taxpayer-funded election investigation, was derailed — following a last-minute Pennsylvania Supreme Court order granting a request from the Wolf administration challenging the review.

Envoy Sage, the contractor hired by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee to conduct the investigation, was poised to inspect the county’s machines Friday afternoon when the court issued a stay, putting the process on hold until the Supreme Court reaches a final decision.

The order came after a state judge rejected attempts by Dominion Voting Machines, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and state elections officials to block the probe unless an accredited inspector carried it out. The Wolf administration also wants Fulton County and Envoy Sage to agree to a step-by-step protocol and disclose who will conduct the review.

Legislative Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro have also expressed security concerns with Envoy Sage in court challenges to a subpoena issued as part of the Senate investigation that asks for voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers.

“Dominion welcomes such reviews by accredited elections entities,” the company said in a statement to the Capital-Star. “We have made this expressly clear to county officials many times, including in legal filings. Unfortunately, this inspection does not comply with existing federal or state requirements.”

Dominion compared the review in Pennsylvania to the controversial, GOP-backed election probe carried out by a firm with no experience auditing elections in Maricopa County, Ariz., last year. 

The contractor selected to “assess” Dominion machines “has never gone through any Voting System Test Lab accreditation process to ensure its qualifications and credibility,” Dominion said in a statement.

Now-President Joe Biden won the election in the commonwealth by 80,555 votes.

Efforts to review the 2020 election come after a months-long campaign by former President Donald Trump, who made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud and misconduct resulted in his loss. Legal challenges to the results failed in court, and two post-election audits carried out in Pennsylvania after the presidential election found no evidence of fraud.

Fulton County voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020, and it’s unclear why its machines are part of the Senate’s investigation. Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who chairs the 11-member panel overseeing the probe, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republican County Commissioner Stuart Ulsh did not respond to a request for comment.

Before the first hearing as part of the investigation, Dush said the review will not reinstate Trump to office. It’s also not a recount, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, who has argued there are “irregularities” worth examining, said in August.

Both lawmakers, who signed a letter asking Congress to delay certification of Pennsylvania’s Electoral College results after the 2020 election, have said the review aims to identify strengths and weaknesses in the state’s voting laws, as well as make recommendations for improvements.

Dush also visited Arizona last summer to tour the election review facility with Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin.

A spokesperson for the Department of State, which has election oversight, declined to comment on Friday’s meeting and referred the Capital-Star to legal challenges brought by the Wolf administration opposing the review.

Former acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid decertified Fulton County’s voting machines last July for complying with an unauthorized election review, facilitated by Mastriano and carried out by a West Chester-based technology company with no election-related experience.

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