Thomas Breth, left, a lawyer for Fulton County, Pa., stands with other county officials and explains that the state Supreme Court had just put their voting machine inspection on hold before it started in McConnellsburg, Pa., Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)
Court puts on hold Republican effort to inspect Pennsylvania voting machines
Fulton County has allowed its voting machines to be inspected.
Marc Levy/The Associated Press
Mark Scolforo/The Associated Press
(McConnellsburg) — An inspection of voting machines in a heavily Republican county in Pennsylvania had been poised to go forward Friday until an 11th-hour appeal to the state Supreme Court by lawyers for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf put it on hold.
The high court decision came hours after a state judge rejected attempts by the Wolf administration to block the inspection — inspired by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about fraud in the 2020 election — without certain agreements in place.
The justices overruled the lower court by granting an emergency request by the governor’s lawyers to stop it for now.
The machines in question were about to be wheeled in and a special meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and Elections had just gotten underway at 1 p.m. Friday when a lawyer for the county, Tom Breth, announced that the Supreme Court’s filing office had just notified him the stay was granted.
“Stay tuned. That’s the court,” Breth said to reporters after he learned the filing.
The Supreme Court said that the request was granted on a temporary basis until the full court can consider it, and that no inspection can take place until the justices issue an order.
The public knows almost nothing about how the probe would have been conducted and one of Fulton County’s Republican commissioners quickly shutdown questions to the effect after Friday’s board meeting was over.
Neither lawyers and officials have offered details on how an inspection would be conducted or if it would follow state or federal guidelines about how to perform one.
Fulton County’s legal team responded to the Wolf administration’s appeal Friday afternoon, arguing the Supreme Court should dismiss it on technical grounds. At this point, there is no clear timeline on when or even if the ballot machine inspection can proceed.
There were no widespread issues with the 2020 election in Fulton County.
The voting machines that Republicans want to look at were decertified because another company without election experience examined those machines last year. It found nothing consequential.
Wolf’s lawyers, representing Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, want Fulton County officials to agree to a set of demands on protocol, including sharing the identity of who will inspect the voting machines and allowing a state-designated voting machine expert to observe and record it.
On Dec. 10, state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, sent a letter requesting the “digital data” from the election computers and hardware used in the 2020 election by Fulton County.
Dush is leading a state Senate review and Fulton County is cooperating.
A lawyer for Fulton County said Dush wants the Senate Republicans’ contractor to determine whether the equipment used there was the same equipment certified by Pennsylvania for use in 2020’s election.
Dush this year visited the Republicans’ partisan and widely criticized election review in Arizona and said he wanted to bring that model to Pennsylvania.
A Republican-controlled Senate committee also has sent a subpoena to state election officials for a wide range of election-related records.