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New front in GOP election ‘probe’ raises challenges | Technology news

By MARC LEVY – Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and voting system maker try to stop Republican lawmakers from expanding what they call a “forensic investigation” into the 2020 Pennsylvania election to a new front: the inspection of voting machines.

This is another step prompted by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud.

Lawyers for Wolf’s top election official Veronica DeGraffenreid asked a court Friday afternoon to stop a digital data exchange scheduled for next Wednesday in sparsely populated Fulton County in southern Pennsylvania.

Election equipment used in last year’s presidential election in the heavily Republican county has already been decertified by the state after Fulton County let a software company inspect the equipment. The company – West Chester-based software company Wake TSI – was not federally accredited to inspect voting machines, and it went on to play a role in the largely discredited partisan “audit” of Republicans in Arizona. .

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Allowing an equally unaccredited and inexperienced contractor hired by the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans to obtain digital data from the equipment will spoil the evidence in the Fulton County lawsuit challenging the state’s decertification, the attorneys wrote of DeGraffenreid in a court file.

On December 10, the Chairman of the Inquiry Committee, Senator Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, sent a letter requesting the “digital data” of the computers and election materials used in the 2020 election by Fulton County.

Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems has warned Fulton County that granting the Senate Republicans contractor access to their equipment to obtain the digital data violates their contract.

But Dominion – whose voting equipment has been at the center of some of the most feverish presidential conspiracy theories of the past year – said Fulton County has a backup copy of the data that ‘he could simply provide without allowing access to Dominion’s equipment.

However, a lawyer representing Fulton County, Tom King, said in an interview on Saturday that digital election data isn’t just what Dush wants.

Instead, Dush wants the Senate Republican contractor, Envoy Sage, to conduct a “forensic investigation” to determine if the Dominion equipment used there was the same as that certified by the State of Pennsylvania for use in last year’s election, King said.

“I think people just want to know if what was used in Fulton County was in fact the equipment that was certified for Dominion to supply in Pennsylvania or if it was not,” King said. . “Whether or not it is not. Clear to us at this point.

King said a county commissioner who spoke to Dush told him that the bulk of the investigation was about Dominion equipment. Wake TSI’s inspection did not cover this, King said.

Voting systems that pass anti-tampering tests are certified by the states. The US Election Assistance Commission accredits laboratories to test voting machines and provides advice to states on how to maintain a chain of custody over voting systems.

King said acceptance of the request was authorized under the contract and that he considered the Wise Envoy to be “highly qualified” to perform the work. Separately, King also said the exercise will not affect the trial or the state’s rights in the courts.

Pleadings were scheduled for Tuesday.

Trump and his allies have lobbied continuously in battlefield states where he lost to Democrat Joe Biden – including Pennsylvania – to have his allies investigate ballots, voting machines and voters lists to obtain evidence to support their baseless claims of electoral fraud.

Dush – who has advocated for the overturning of Biden’s victory over Trump in Pennsylvania – did not say why he was asking for access, or whether he was seeking similar access in other counties.

He did not resend a message on this subject.

Dush insisted the business has nothing to do with Trump or the attempt to overthrow last year’s presidential election, but rather aims to resolve the state’s election issues.

In any case, the analysis of the voting machine data is not specifically described in the Senate Republicans’ $ 270,000 contract with Envoy Sage, which raises the question of whether the groups aligned with Trump are footing part of the bill, as they did in the Arizona business.

Dush has said he wants to bring the Arizona-style election “audit” to Pennsylvania.

Unlike Arizona, a subpoena approved by Dush’s Republican-controlled state Senate committee to Pennsylvania election officials did not call for ballots and voting machines, and other counties rejected less formal requests.

But in Fulton County, Dush found a willing partner.

There, Trump won over 85% of the vote last year, according to official reports, and registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats 7-2.

In post-election internal emails released via requests for public documents, the two Fulton County Republican commissioners expressed solidarity with the Republican senators who then sought to prevent Pennsylvania’s electoral votes from being cast for Biden. . One of them wrote: “We cannot let this election get robbed. “

No prosecutor, judge or electoral board in Pennsylvania raised concerns about widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and courts at all levels have dismissed the allegations of fraud, irregularities and violations.

Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.

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